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Well, here we are. At the moment many of us have been waiting several weeks for: When the identity of the new hero of the Kamen Rider Build TV series is finally revealed. Of course, everybody and their momma had already figured it out ages ago, and it’s doubtful the show was even trying to keep it a big secret this whole time. But for those of us who have been loving the show so far, and watching the quick but steady growth of Ryuuga as a character, coming into his own as a freedom fighter in this upside-down world our protagonists are living in, it’s been something to look forward to. And the moment of truth definitely does not disappoint. Let’s dive into the eleventh episode of this stellar series as I continue to wonder if they can possibly sustain this level of quality throughout at least 35 more.

After taking a break from the routine last time, we’re back to the usual dueling fourth-wall-breaking recaps of recent events from young genius Kiryuu Sento and fugitive protege Banjou Ryuuga, refreshing our memory with some highlights. Chief among them was the assault on the Touto lab, where sinister Faust member Night Rogue stole Sento’s Full Bottle tools, robbing him of many of his fancy superpowers. I laughed out loud here, as Ryuuga actually comments on the very thing I mentioned in last week’s review, concerning the impossibility of Sento comfortably being able to carry that many collectibles on his person without it looking hella awkward. To loosely quote the title character of Doctor Who, Sento’s pockets must be bigger on the inside!

Following the recap, Team Build discusses the latest revelation that super-baddie Blood Stalk can seemingly alter the appearance of anyone he comes in contact with, adding further evidence to support the theory that the presumed dead Katsuragi Takumi could still be alive. More fuel to the fire comes when they watch Katsuragi’s video files where he details his creation of the Blood Stalk system as well as Sento’s own Rider System. Interestingly, Katsuragi actually states in this video, which was obviously filmed well ahead of the show’s first episode, that Blood Stalk would be a good rival for Build, that would encourage him to improve. Meaning one of Stalk’s main reasons for being could be to assist with Build’s growth this whole time. So, whoever Stalk is, Katsuragi or otherwise, has been following the Devil’s Scientist’s plan from jump street.

It’s amazing to me, even knowing of Sawa’s treachery, how well she still fits into the group in this scene. Just hanging out, trying to strategize their next move. It only dawns on me again, later in the scene, that she’s been sending information to the enemy likely from the moment she met them, one of the reasons homicidal monsters show up to murder them at the most inconvenient times, when they couldn’t possibly have known our intrepid adventurers would be there.

With so many absent Full Bottles, all hope seems lost, until Sento explains the full extent of his plans when he built Ryuuga’s Cross-Z Dragon, one of the few functional battle items left in their formerly considerable arsenal. Speaking of big things in pockets, Sento reaches right into Ryuuga’s pants, digging around to grab his Dragon Bottle. I guess transforming Ryuuga into a Kamen Rider was something Sento had been thinking about well in advance. Never telling Ryuuga (likely because he’d totally overthink it and ruin a bunch of development) that, through all the trials of the past ten episodes, he was being quietly groomed for the job of Secondary Rider.

Impulsive as ever, Ryuuga wants to transform immediately, but it may not be as easy as he thinks.

Meanwhile, Himuro Gentoku explains to the holographic Prime Ministers of neighboring territories Hokuto and Seito that he is taking over for his father while he rests up after recent events. And because no one gave any explanation, I’m left to ponder whether or not Himuro Taizan’s little accident was intentional subterfuge, or if it was indeed just a “happy” accident that he almost dropped dead right in the Pandora Box chamber shortly after the Martian device was stolen by Blood Stalk. Just how despicable is Gentoku? How low can you go, Acting Prime Minister?

Hokuto’s Minister reacts with outrage when her question about Faust is thrown back in her face, Gentoku suggesting that they came from her territory instead of his own. I have to admit that it’s amusing watching this manipulative bastard work. Aside from the over-the-top laughter at the end of episode ten, he’s been a smooth, calculating villain, slowly easing conversations and events into alignment, barely breaking a sweat or showing any overly aggressive expression, even when he’s threatening people’s lives or implying horrible consequences for crossing him. For now, the other Ministers can do nothing except wait. “But we won’t wait forever,” says Seito’s Minister.

It seems Gentoku’s not the only one feeling himself today, as Stalk just casually walks into the room after the meeting, asking where the Pandora Box was hidden after he retrieved it. He even kills two innocent Touto guards who rightfully would march into the room, demanding to know why a known enemy to their government is prancing around like he owns the joint. These villains are not the cute and cuddly sort. Gentoku suggests that Stalk may eventually be told the box’s location if he proves he can be trusted. Good luck with that, Smokey.

When Faust makes a move, Sento and Ryuuga jump at the chance to take them down, Ryuuga deciding this time to pose as a birdwatcher because… that’s how his brain works.

Sento uses his KeyDragon form to face Night Rogue, but unlike last time, where he thoroughly kicked Rogue’s ass in seconds, it only takes half as long for the KeyDragon system to go haywire, knocking him out of the transformation. And, though Ryuuga awesomely takes out several Guardians on his own, even using their own cool-ass bladed blasters against them, there’s no defense from the likes of Rogue. He tries to transform but the Cross-Z Dragon shocks his hands, still rejecting him as a user. Fortunately, Blood Stalk shows up to prove exactly why he’s not getting that Pandora Box location anytime soon.

To Gentoku’s unending annoyance, and Sento’s growing curiosity, Stalk continues to shield the Rider Bros from permanent harm. He’s not exactly nice to them, but he needs them alive. Is it really just because that’s what his suit was designed for? He can’t honestly just want to “improve the Rider System”, right? There’s more to these increasing shenanigans, and I want to know where this is going.

As Sento explains that Ryuuga failed to transform because his intentions weren’t pure or whatever, Sawa is quietly freaking out because the listening device she had planted in the base is missing. Misora catches her in the cafe before she can leave. I love that this is a confrontation of the two ladies. It makes that bonding moment between them a few episodes back that much more important, as they’ve now had time to become friends, and yet their whole relationship up to this point was based on lies. Misora has every right to be salty. Before Sawa can answer for her apparent crimes, Ryuuga shows up to distract them, and our traitorous reporter is out the door. She calls her benefactor Nanba to tell him that she’s been found out as a spy, and knowing this show, I was already counting the minutes before the dreaded Faust members showed up to cart her off to the Nebula Gas chamber.

Honestly, these villains are impressive. It’s the subtle evil that they display that makes them so effective. It’s not the grandiose stuff you see all the time in superhero and tokusatsu titles, with bad guys loudly declaring what they’ll do and how they’ll destroy the world and yadda, yadda. It’s the quiet apathy with which they send people off to their deaths, or to cause it, not even blinking at the horrible aftermath. If your dutiful servant gets found out, there’s nothing left to do but kidnap and forcibly mutate her into a killing machine, an act that would have meant her death if Build weren’t so smart and caring an adversary.

Before Misora can raise concerns from what she’s discovered, Sento gets a message from Sawa’s phone, informing him of Rogue’s plan to release the Sawa Smash monster in the city. It’s obviously a trap to get the last of Sento’s Full Bottles, to complete the next phase of Faust’s plan, but he’s not going to leave those people to suffer at Rogue’s dark whim. As KeyDragon faces the Smash, Ryuuga finds a letter from his dearly departed Kasumi, left at her family’s grave site. In it, he reads an apology for her part in him getting kicked out of professional fighting. She imparts encouraging words, hoping that he will use his strength to help others. And her timing from the great beyond is pretty spot on, since Build is already getting knocked out of his armor.

Ryuuga arrives just in time to retrieve Sento’s last remaining Full Bottles and Build Driver before they can be stolen. Spurred on by Kasumi’s memory, he summons the Cross-Z Dragon to his hand, and just like I had previously nicknamed it the Dragon Zecter, it actually kind of does react like one of those flying transformation items from Kamen Rider Kabuto. Not only that, but one of its multiple voice cues for activation is “Wake Up”, giving me Kamen Rider Kiva feels. Ryuuga plucks the little guy out of the air, inserts the Dragon Bottle into it, and connects it to the Build Driver, at last initiating his henshin into the beautiful Kamen Rider Cross-Z. The pronunciation of which sounds a lot like the previously-speculated name, “Claws”. Knowing the mad toymakers at Bandai, the fact that it sounds like 7584353 different things at once is entirely by design. Why pick one name when you can pick all of the names?

And, because they really don’t want to leave any Heisei Kamen Rider series un-referenced, Cross-Z immediately performs his finishing attack on the Smash. He calls forth an enormous, serpentine dragon specter, reminiscent of Kamen Rider Ryuki. The dragon spits a fire blast as Cross-Z delivers his Rider Kick. In direct contrast to his buddy Sento, Ryuuga’s Rider Kick actually looks freaking awesome. And Night Rogue seems pretty impressed himself. The Smash was taken out with one hit (actually, it was two, since Ryuuga punched it right before he called the dragon, but who’s counting?).

With his Beat Crosser sword, he cuts through Rogue’s attacks like birthday cake. Some unique visual effects are used here, with the energy wave sent from Ryuuga’s blade, causing multiple hits even after the weapon has been swung. Night Rogue can’t mess with that, so he makes a tactical retreat for the second time in a row. Poor Gentoku. He may have the seat of the Touto Prime Minister, but his fight record is dropping with every outing.

As we quickly skate by Sento’s borderline sociopathic planting of Kasumi’s letter at the gravesite, after having found it elsewhere and deployed it like a secret weapon when he wanted Ryuuga to be in the perfect state of mind, the duo cures the Smash of its hostile essence, revealing Sawa underneath its gnarly form. It takes her a moment, but she soon realizes what happened, and how easily the group she had sacrificed so much for had turned on her when she became less useful. With little else left to lose, she simply confesses right there that she’s a spy, leaving us hanging for what will most assuredly be an interesting twelfth episode.

I’ll be honest. While the climax is great and I generally enjoy these characters, this episode wasn’t a favorite. There’s something about the way the protagonist is forced to undergo personal growth to unlock their new power that felt a little more typical than I’ve come to hope this show aspires to be on its best day. And the repeated use of some of the same Kasumi flashbacks has also gotten tedious enough that I found myself growing impatient for them to just get on with it. In a show that often does character development extraordinarily well, this entry felt like it revisited the well just one too many times.

The thing is, even when Build isn’t firing on all cylinders, it’s still well ahead of the curve. Despite my dislike of how it was framed this time, episode 11 is still the culmination of weeks of growth, leading us to the triumphant moment when Ryuuga can become a Kamen Rider in his own right. And he does so at a time when he’s already a far more accomplished hero than many in his category. The new gruesome twosome is just getting started, and they’re already proving good rivals to some of the best duos in Kamen Rider history.

 

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