Who needs breaks? Not Kamen Rider Build, that’s for sure! Since the newest addition to the Kamen Rider television legacy burst onto the scene, they’ve barreled forward full steam ahead, running right over every narrative pot hole that could have slowed it down along the way, redefining what it means to have a sweeping television epic in the tokusatsu subgenre. They’re going for the gold, folks. And if they keep this up, they just might get it.
Last time, our resident genius amnesiac Kiryuu Sento had to face his old mentor Isurugi Soichi, who was revealed as the treacherous terroristic Blood Stalk. But winning one battle only means the coming war will be fought with greater intensity, as the show immediately addresses several concerns before I had the chance to even be bothered by them. Let me count the ways I love you, Build. One – You actually care that your story makes sense, and you don’t just look for logic gaps, you leap at them like a hungry lion to snatch them out of the way and swallow them up like a vacuum.
A troupe of Touto soldiers and robotic Guardians flood Caffe Najcita, Acting Prime Minister Himuro Gentoku hoping to find the heroes where they sleep (and as some may recall, I joked that this was the first thing I would have done, if I were him, so it’s hugely gratifying that… this is the first thing he does in the very next episode). Fortunately, Sento’s a TV genius whose smarts go toward more than just whipping up random gadgets when immediately useful. He, like many of us watching, predicted this event and was ready to observe the corrupt Touto leader’s movements as they raid his only home. I swear it’s like the people running this show have begun to read my mind. They’re doing so many of the things I’ve always wanted a show of this type to do and it’s presented with such panache.
Isurugi Misora watches with Sento as the raid is carried out, and they find nothing, to Gentoku’s frustration. She remarks that her father Soichi will have something to say about all this when he gets back, and Sento’s worried expression mirrors my own, though maybe for slightly different reasons. I’m not a fan of people keeping secrets for lengthy periods in fiction if there’s no good reason, and even less a fan of when those left in the dark are the so-called fragile women of the story. Let’s revisit this point in a bit, as Build continues to prove it’s got this shit on lock.
Point Two on why I love you, Build. You know when to get down to business. The very next scene after Gentoku’s raid, and the resulting relocation of Team Build to a temporary living situation off the grid, is Gentoku arriving at a meeting set up by Sento. The guy doesn’t just go back to his job and assume he’s perfectly safe for a few weeks. He doesn’t react with an inhuman level of patience about getting to the next step of exposing these verminous tumors in Touto for what they are. There’s no more pretending between Sento and Gentoku. He just comes right out and tells him he knows Gentoku is really Night Rogue, and presents the highly sought-after Pandora Box to sweeten the pot as he questions his old boss (I’m guessing this counts as Sento’s resignation notice).
Gentoku suggests his old employee look up the “Sclash” project in his files to learn what the Faust organization was hoping Sento would complete before finding out the truth. The superpowered Kamen Riders Build and Cross-Z are just the tip of the iceberg in the military applications they sought to unlock. The hotheaded Ryuuga can’t listen to him casually drop an infodeuce all over the parking garage about how they’re going to rearrange the world map with their war games, so he takes a few swipes at the minister.
Barely agitated, Gentoku dodges his moves with ease before smoothly whipping out his Transteam Gun and transforming into Night Rogue (I’ll never tire of this). He quickly puts Ryuuga on the floor, where his recording device falls out, revealing Sento’s plan to catch the minister admitting to criminal acts and thus giving the authorities a reason to arrest and eventually unseat him. Let that be a lesson to you, Ryuuga. Cool heads prevail when you’re setting up murderous world leaders to take the fall for their genocidal plots.
Night Rogue whips out a previously-unseen pair of giant wings, and since he explained recently that his battle gear doesn’t evolve the way the Rider System does, we can assume this has been part of Gentoku’s arsenal the whole time, and he was just holding back, waiting to see if anyone was going to rise to the occasion of forcing him to use it. I can live with that. He takes down Cross-Z pretty good, who’s only saved when Sento transforms into the also previously-unseen LionComic form. The melding of yellow and gold from the two suit fragments creates an interesting look that isn’t my favorite but is nevertheless fun to watch work, if only the once. He and Ryuuga make a quick getaway with their ninja smoke trick, leaving a frustrated Gentoku (one of my favorite kinds of Gentoku, really) annoyed that the box they showed him moments earlier was just a hologram. Clever lad! Even the smirking Soichi agrees with me, as he waltzes into frame after the battle is done, showing appreciation for what our heroes have pulled off. Or rather, what he has pulled off, as even this can be partly credited to Soichi. After all, he was the one who informed Sento and Ryuuga of Night Rogue’s true identity, having likely predicted that something like this would happen in response. Point Three in why Build has my heart: Villains that are smart, suave, and sneaky as all get out.
Sento follows up on the Sclash tip, searching his files from the thought-dead Katsuragi Takumi, aka the Devil’s Scientist, creator of the Rider System. A video of Takumi briefly explains the incomplete Sclash project, designed to turn the Bottle essence used in Build’s arsenal into a gel form, though it remains unclear what purpose this would serve. It sure gets Sento excited though. He swiftly gets to work on this new endeavor, which he claims will ensure their ability to protect the box going forward.
Before Sento’s excitement causes a warp core breach, he gets a call out of the blue. And this show loves its shocking phone calls. This one comes from Gentoku’s father, the Prime Minister himself, Himuro Taizan. Still recovering after his son’s secret collusion with Faust to steal the box from his own government facility, Taizan wants Sento to meet him. Now, after all the praise about people being smart, this move is harder for me to justify. Sento knows the son is a Faust leader and, as far as we’re aware, has little reason to suspect the father is not. Just because many of us have started to assume Taizan was just a sweet old man caught in a political nest of circling vipers doesn’t mean Sento has seen what we’ve seen or has any reason to believe it. I’ll allow it because, at this point, they’re just going to roll the dice and hope for the best, but I do wish we had seen some kind of contingency plan in place.
In any case, the show’s long list of character disguises gets another addition as Ryuuga poses as an appropriately-dressed member of the hospital’s medical staff. And Sento, of course, is a surgeon ready to save lives. Perhaps by excising those tumors we spoke of earlier? Well, that particular operation may have to wait a bit, as Guardians swoop in just when Sento realizes the hall they’d just walked into was completely deserted. The heroes transform in an effort to not have their faces shot off, Sento switching from FireHedgehog to PandaRocket (remember all these diddies?) and flying off with the box before the enemy can swipe it back from them. Ryuuga yelps that Sento should have installed some wings when he gave him the Cross-Z powers, then he jumps through the window to escape. Agreed, Ryuuga. Why should Sento and Gentoku have all the fun? Maybe your next power-up will be the RedBull form or something?
While the Rider Bros dodge death at the hospital trap, we discover the secret reason that whole affair probably took place to begin with. So Soichi, having manipulated those events quite skillfully, making Gentoku believe it was just about “winning his trust” (which I’m sure he barely values at all), could infiltrate the cafe without too much interference from angry men with sword-guns. He walks right down into the hidden chamber, which he “forgot” to mention to Gentoku, and observes the team’s progress.
Thus begins the most beautifully shot sequence in the episode. Yes, other scenes are bigger and flashier, but these are the moments packing the most emotional punch. As Soichi smiles away, delighted that Sento has finished his next project, he hears Misora’s voice calling for her father. He looks at the glass pane full of Sento’s work, the scrawling of a mad young genius ravenously working out the problem, half-covering this man’s mysterious reflection staring back at him as Misora asks where he’s been. Calmly, he admits that he hasn’t been working all the odd jobs they believed he was to keep the cafe open. Of course, his next explanation sounds like another stupid lie, but Misora responds with hopeful, if gullible eyes. At least until he starts to leave. And we’ll call this the Fourth Point in why I love Build. The subtle depth and sincerity of the many layers found in its characters.
Misora is not a pretty idiot, ignorantly going on about her daddy as though he’s just the greatest thing ever. She knows he’s not always what he wants others to think he is. Perhaps she’s always known. Maybe that’s why she’s been flashing worried looks on her face for several episodes now despite also acting like everything’s relatively fine. Now, as she tells Soichi how much his fatherly kindness and lovably silly demeanor meant to her, we can interpret those moments of apparent gullibility as a self-aware act. She and her father would be alike in that way, both putting on facades to betray a deeper well of thought underneath. In her case, she wants to believe her father is a decent man even if she knows he’s probably not. And though their words alone may tell a slightly different story, it’s not hard to imagine that they both know this to be true. He leaves her just before she finally lets herself cry. A devastating scene for two characters that continue to amaze. This show is exceptional.
The ever-frustrated Gentoku messes up Soichi’s nice jacket, pissed off that Blood Stalk wasn’t there at the hospital to get the box, like they had apparently planned, but Soichi’s even got an answer for this. How he knew exactly where the team relocated to after the cafe raid isn’t explicitly stated, but we can surmise that they were either followed from Point A to Point B or Soichi’s planted tracking devices. (And I really don’t know how the Build Phone works, so that’s another concern I’ve been wondering about, since everybody and their momma’s been blowing up his cell recently. Can nobody trace that?)
Cross-Z and Build’s PirateTrain form make quick work of the invading Guardians, but the laughing Gentoku (not one of my favorites, but I’ll take it) transforms right in front of his two human guards. And the moment I wonder about how that will work – if these guys are part of Faust or just grunts who are about to get a shock – Night Rogue turns around and shoots them. Not to kill them, but to pump them full of Nebula Gas, making them wild Smash monsters. Rogue taunts how, if what Soichi told him is true, Sento’s place is not with the rest of the do-gooders of Team Build. A confused Sento keeps fighting to protect Misora from attacking Smash, he and Ryuuga eventually defeating them.
And, after cycling through a helluva lot of forms this week, Sento finally cracks open a cold one and activates his new RabbitTank Sparkling power, shooting the crap out of Rogue with both his HawkGatlinger and his DrillCrusher in Gun Mode. Always a fun thing to see the gadgets mix and match, which I suppose was one of the episode’s objectives. Proving that, even with the shiny new stuff, there’s a use for the 20394808 other powers our resourceful saviors have racked up over these last few months. Despite Rogue busting out his wings of glory, they’re no match for Sento’s Rider Kick, this time without the fancy CGI from his battle with Blood Stalk. It’s just a straight-up aerial beatdown, slamming the villain hard into the side of the warehouse with explosive results. I thought Sparkling looked pretty okay under the dramatic rainfall of its last appearance, but it may look even more striking when juxtaposed with a different element, as flames crackle behind it after a victorious landing.
And the misses just keep on coming for poor Gentoku, as he can barely congratulate Sento on finally knocking him out of his armor before Taizan’s entourage rolls up. Apparently, the wheelchair-bound man saw everything his son was doing and is none too thrilled about having raised a traitor. So, Sento’s earlier bid to catch Gentoku with a confession might not have worked immediately, but Gentoku was still exposed in the end. He’s arrested for his crimes as Sento is seemingly freed from the pressure of eluding Faust from within the Touto government. At least for the moment. The box is returned to Touto. Round and round the merry-go-round we spin. And I can’t help but wonder if this too was part of Soichi’s ridiculously complex plans, which always seem several moves ahead of the others.
Before he can be escorted off the premises, Sento asks Gentoku what he was referring to earlier. Gentoku is all too happy to repeat what Soichi told him. That Katsuragi Takumi is alive, and that he’s changed his appearance. Just like the suicidal cultist from Faust insisted before destroying himself. Just like Blood Stalk implied by changing the face of the Faust member’s co-worker an episode after that. Sento is coming to grips with the potential truth that the man responsible for all of this – from framing his friend Ryuuga for murder to the continued use of innocent men and women as guinea pigs in horrific experiments – was not some untouchable, faraway enemy, but himself.
And with that, I think I’ve run out of petals to pluck from this flower, but I’ll trust my point has been made. Kamen Rider Build is the new standard-setter for modern tokusatsu on television today. What’s a bad episode? To find one, I think I’ll have to look up some other show, because this one doesn’t do bad episodes, apparently. It’s a ruthless, restless, unrivaled winner, and I’m impressed in more ways than I can count. I’ll have to plant another flower just to keep track.
Next: Episode 16