Team TokuNet Contributor Sesker continues her review series of Kamen Rider Build with episode 26, and shows how this episode sets up a transitional period for characters and the plot.
This week sets up a breather episode, serving as a transition in between larger arcs. For a fifty-episode series, there needs to be specific arcs to give direction to the larger plot for an entire year. In this first half, we’ve seen how the conflicts sparked from Pandora’s Box have escalated. Now that those conflicts have inflicted heavy casualties on most of the parties involved, the conflict centered around the three nations fighting each other is drawing to a climax. With Hokuto crippled, and Touto constantly on the defensive, our main heroes are driven by the immediate goal of stopping Seito’s ambitions. That’s made harder from last week though, where Kamen Rider Rogue (a rogue Hiromu Gentoku) stole the Box from Touto’s control.
Just like last time when control of the Box was in question, Seito calls for a proxy battle to also decide the control of the bottles needed to unlock it. However this time, the battle is set up to determine the victor from best-two-out-of-three matches between all the Riders. Even though he’s not a citizen of Touto, Sawatari Kazumi has nothing left to lose, and a whole heaping helping of revenge to dish out, so he agrees to fight on their behalf.
In the meantime, there are two other subplots continued here, but not concluded with finality. In one of them, Sento and Ryuga collaborate with Misora to apply the mysterious effect she showed last week, allowing her to disengage Sento from his berserk Hazard Trigger state. They hope to create a specific piece of equipment Sento could use to do the same at will.
In the process, we see something a bit unusual for Kamen Rider series – a clip show. It doesn’t take up the full episode, but it does provide a fun way of letting Ryuga and Sento reflect on their battles as well as the mysteries which still surround the Full Bottles.
The best clip shows do exactly this. First, they are reasonably framed within the events of the show itself. That is, there are specific reasons for the characters to reminisce at this moment. In the process, the clip show allows the characters think about how far they’ve come, and how they’ve developed over time. Even if the audience has seen these events before, the opportunity for the characters themselves to look at them in hindsight provides some valuable insight. Build uses it for some good humor though as it comes off as one of the opening recap gags stretched out by a few minutes.
Nonetheless, this recap also provides a necessary reminder to the audience of the show’s progression, accompanying the episode’s transitional function overall. The show moves forward at an unbelievably fast pace, with constantly escalating power levels, but it’s nice to have a breather for once.
We even see the return of a few of Sento’s earlier mannerisms during these scenes. The excitement over a new invention, the hair-flip, his self-indulgent narcissism in praising his own creations, all of it provides a welcome return. It’s been too long since we’ve seen him this enthusiastic about his scientific work, rather than the work of being a Rider. By the end of these scenes, Sento creates what will become the Rabbit Rabbit form. We only see hints at it, it won’t actually be deployed in action until next week.
There is another subplot which is developed, but not brought yet to a conclusion here as well. That is the cliffhanger from last week’s episode, the knowledge that one of the core members of the team is a spy for Namba Heavy Industries.
If a viewer thought “Well, there’s really only one certain possibility for the traitor’s identity” after that cliffhanger, they’d be right. However, the show thankfully acknowledges this is a fairly obvious twist and doesn’t waste much time with the characters’ investigation either.
Sento immediately suspects Sawa, and those suspicions only grow deeper when he discovers her professed backstory has a few holes. If the audience still had any doubts though, the show provides concrete confirmation when she copies Sento’s data for the new weapons to bring to the President, and even see her as part of the President’s child soldier project in a flashback. Given that Sento almost certainly knows she’s the spy, he’s most likely set up some sort of trap off-camera to confront her with next week too, but just like the episode leaves off without actually unveiling RabbitRabbit, that trap will have to wait as well.
One might think an episode which only establishes how far our heroes have progressed, only hinting at future developments without delivering on them, would be a bit of a bore. However, there is one significant element of catharsis which helps to sell it as a coherent, complete narrative on its own. That’s the connection between Kazumi and Ryuga’s characters, as well as a definitive expression of Kazumi’s own character growth, moving on from his friends’ deaths.
Ryuga and Kazumi have been mostly antagonistic towards each other ever since Kazumi stated his intentions to move into the café, but this episode shows how they relate to each other through a shared sense of loss. Both of them resolve to move forward and grow stronger to better protect the memory of loved ones killed by this conflict. This produces an appropriate metaphor, as they use each other’s burning convictions to fight and raise their respective Hazard Levels before the proxy battle occurs.
We see the outcome of this in Grease’s fight against one half of the Engine Bros. They have given our heroes plenty of headaches before, so one question hangs in the air as they square up. Will Kazumi be able to overcome their force? Luckily, he can, through one of the most ridiculously awesome displays of heroically hotblooded spirit. There’s just something breathtakingly audacious about watching a hero punctuate each one of his punches and headbutts with speeches about the literal power of friendship.
The Engine Bros are plainly supposed to represent dark mirrors of the main heroes. Sento and the other heroic Riders seek to protect life for its own sake rather than for its utility within a perpetually-driven military-industrial-complex.
The Engine Brothers, on the other hand, are raised and indoctrinated to consider their own value related to their utility to the President of Namba Heavy Industries. They’re just as much victims of this as the other Riders. Though to be frank, they’re also boring characters as a result of their absolute, mechanized rigor. They likely will serve as cannon fodder to show off Sento’s new upgrade next week. Before that though, Ryuga has to survive his own battle against their combined form – the Hell Brothers.
While this episode hasn’t created any significant milestones within the show’s overarching plot, it still provided a needed break for reflection and reorientation. The convictions our heroes have developed over the last 25 episodes of struggle and sorrow will now direct them past this current challenge. Where the show will lead them next, and how those convictions will continue to develop though, is still a mystery.