Kamen Rider Build #24 – Sunk Cost
Team TokuNet Contributor Sesker continues her review series of Kamen Rider Build with episode 24. This time, dealing with the show’s comparison and contrast between two foils – Build and the newly-introduced Rogue.
Last week, we began to see Sento’s efforts to fight and protect all lives pay off in some specific ways. That continues here, culminating in a renewed sense of teamwork between Grease (Sawatari Kazami) and our heroes. They were originally set against each other, but new circumstances have led to the creation of a new alliance, forged in the battle against a threat to both Touto and Hokuto. Seito revealing their hand in the previous weeks escalated the war yet again, but also provided the common ground needed to build a connection between the Riders of the other two regions
To reinforce the development Sento has undergone in the process, we see him return to the scene where he killed Aoba when using Hazard Trigger back in episode 21. Before, he was sick with shame and remorse when recalling that event, but now he’s much more composed. At the same time, he still acknowledges his mistakes and the losses they’ve faced. He is there to specifically pay respects to the memory of Kazami’s fallen friends, after all.
Sento’s failures are reminders of his reasons to continue fighting as a Rider, and impetus to fight harder to prevent future losses. In this sense, that memory serves as an anchor to keep him mindful of the consequences of his actions. Kazami, realizing they are both driven by the same value for lives, and anchored by the same commemoration of those sacrifices, decides to fight alongside him officially.
Even though Build is remarkably dark for a Kamen Rider series, it’s these advancements which help to mark victories for the main character. They “lost” the fight last week, but both Sento and Kazami have gained ground towards their shared goal of peace. In last week’s review, I mentioned this advancement helps to keep the audience invested in the characters, despite the crushing bleakness elsewhere in the show.
However, Build also creates an emotional attachment to the characters by allowing them to play off of each other in screamingly funny ways. Ryuga’s hotheadedness, Kazami’s inexplicable love of idol culture, Sento and Misora’s good-natured exasperation at the scene they make, all of it is organically derived from their characterizations. These scenes make for great moments of levity amidst the heavy tragedy of the plot’s events.
This episode smoothly transitions from that scene, showing the back-and-forth banter over Kazami’s intention to stay at the café, to Sento recalling happier times before the war. Often shows which attempt comedic relief in the midst of darker storylines suffer from a sort of whiplash. Nonetheless here, the transition makes realistic sense, a natural outgrowth of their reaction to the punch-lines. The following scene also provides another opportunity to further develop their characterizations, not just using them to provide cheap laughs. Sento uses this conversation to reflect on the most recent events of the show, but also his original motivations in becoming a Rider at the very start of the show.
That reminiscence also leads into a new development in Misora’s own connection to the powers from Pandora’s Box. Even though she doesn’t fight directly, Misora has her own character as well and has contributed a lot to urging on the development of the Riders throughout the show. Seeing her collapsed on the floor of their base, the source of her abilities now exerting some unknown influence which may threaten her life hurts to watch.
After all, comedic relief scenes are funny, but when used properly, those moments of humor also exist to heighten the drama surrounding them. It would be exhausting if everyone only suffers in the course of a story, and we never see the characters achieve any moments of happiness or leisure time. Instead, the main heroes of Build only suffer most of the time and thus, the audience with them.
The use of comedic relief in this episode is notable because it makes the dramatic plot developments more effective, but the primary conflict of this episode’s plot centers around another point of contrast. These are the similarities and differences between Kiryuu Sento and Hiromu Gentoku – now both Kamen Riders.
For a series which treats the office of “Rider” as something horrifyingly destructive, it’s significant to notice Gentoku seems to be the only one who actively seeks it out with no concern for the cost. After he was disgraced by Sento’s exposure and his father’s disavowal, he sought out Utsumi and Nanba Heavy Industries to give him the means to attain more power.
Another significant point of development for him in this episode comes from a shift in his stated motivations. Previously, Gentoku had sought military strength through Faust’s resources to protect Touto from the other regions. Now that he’s been exiled, he has lost that driving ambition. What has it been replaced with? What drove him to endure so much pain and humiliation to become Kamen Rider Rogue?
Surprisingly, nothing as shallowly personal as revenge or simple, blind rage. Instead, he wishes to reunite all the three regions together into a single nation. Of course, using the power provided him by Blood Stalk and Seito to do so by force. The power to use the Sclash driver and the new Crocodile Crack bottle both come from Gentoku hitting rock bottom and “crawling back from hell” as he puts it. He has one singular goal – unite the country as its leader – and has set every fiber of his being on achieving it. It doesn’t matter how much pain he has to endure, or what pain he has to inflict on others in the process.
This is the “unbreakable” ideal that he holds on to, and he claims as his source of strength. Is it selfless? Yes, but it’s also a moral framework which has completely disregarded the value of human lives in the process. Just as before, when he was acting as Prime Minister of Touto, he seeks leadership to protect his nation, while simultaneously not caring for the individual citizens under his rule.
Blood Stalk himself still views this callousness as the surest path to power (represented by increasing Hazard levels) and confronts Sento in an attempt to bait him into fighting harder. In comparison to Gentoku’s own willingness to do everything possible to see his goal through, Stalk wants to force Sento to give up his attachments to the other characters. We’ve seen the strength of those bonds of trust and responsibility, the purposeful appreciation of other lives over his own happiness and security throughout the entire series. However, Stalk still sees those connections as a weakness, something that holds him back from unleashing the full power of his scientific advancements – like the Hazard Trigger.
Stalk wants to push Sento to the same breaking point Gentoku reached in order for him to gain a new level of power. However, this is still a Kamen Rider show, so he should know better why the heroes are always able to achieve victory against these odds. Sento overcomes the challenges in his path by paradoxically relying on the strength of those around him. The final part of this episode appears to set up a showdown between the two conflicting motivations to prove this point. On one side is Gentoku’s singular bloody-minded drive to rule all of Japan, and on the other, we have Sento’s desire to see love and peace protected. The allies Sento has made to this point now allow him to use the Hazard Trigger more easily in this fight as he knows they’ll help him if he loses control again.
Too bad it’s not enough this time. Gentoku trashes him, even when Sento uses his Hazard Trigger form. Luckily, before Gentoku can finish him off, an unexpected distraction arrives with Misora. Not of her own free will. It’s clear something else is guiding her to the scene of this battle.
This episode leaves off on a number of cliffhangers. Will Sento’s wish to protect others prove to be stronger than Gentoku’s will to power, or will he also be forced to make more sacrifices for his own ideals? What force is controlling Misora? Is it a benefit or a new threat? Both?
Just like with last week, we have a number of different plot lines, conflicts, and concerns running at the same time. Nonetheless, Build has proven itself adept at handling all of them in a way that makes the show better than the sum of its individual parts. The only real complaint I would have at this point is the quick pace of power level escalation, with Hazard Trigger already being obsoleted by Kamen Rider Rogue. However, that serves a purpose. It reinforces the arms race which defines the military conflict of the show’s setting. It is slightly disappointing to see several cool suits left behind in the dust as the plot moves on, but as a positive note to the show, it’s justified in context with the plot and doesn’t feel like haphazard marketing to push out toy sales. Build more than makes up for it with the character advancement of the Riders wearing the suits.