Team TokuNet Contributor Sesker continues her review series of Kamen Rider Build with episode 29. As the show moves into the second half of the season, new threats are revealed and new angles to the main characters arise.
So far in Kamen Rider Build, Sento’s idealism has brought two enemies around – Kazumi and Sawa. Both were seemingly beholden to more powerful forces of sociopolitical influence which demanded their sacrifice. One from his obligations to Hokuto’s government and his own national comrades and the other from her conditioning under Nanba’s child soldier project. Sento and Ryuga’s victories throughout the show to this point have allowed both of them to hope for a better path than the ones they felt backed into. However, the show is now well into the second half and a new threat is just beginning to emerge. In addition, as we see this week, the power represented by Pandora’s Box has only begun to emerge on a larger scale. The explosive force which kicks off this new arc is countered by an uncharacteristically subtle examination of ethics and moral consequence. The two together help to restrain and shape the direction of this episode overall.
While Sento, Kazumi, and Ryuga helped to defeat Seito’s forces (supplied by Nanba’s own technological research and production) last week in a proxy battle, that victory turns out to be hollow. Our heroes have avoided complete defeat and earned a new ally with Sawa now coming clean and severing her ties to Nanba. At the same time, President Nanba himself has assumed the role of Seito’s Prime Minister and is using his new impersonation to further the attack on Touto regardless. Rather than seeking to barter for Full Bottles though, the President only seeks a scorched earth campaign, to cow Touto into surrender from the sheer level of collateral damage inflicted. Build has shown warfare and invasion before, but this is a new and shocking level of destruction which matches the plot escalation this episode represents.
Seito’s control of the Box leads to another shocking development too. Even without all the bottles, inserting the ones Nanba has control of into the Box begins to build “Pandora’s Tower”. This rearranges the very structure of the Sky Wall, causing even more damage in the war’s wake. This event is notable because while the previous events occurred totally under his control, the Sky Tower is an unexpected development for Nanba as well as the audience. President Nanba was only interested in using the energy from the Box to power the rapid industrialization he needs to take over the world. This Tower is unknown to him – but not to Blood Stalk. He tells Sento that it will cause the end of the world, just like it did with Mars.
It’s a heck of a way to kick off the beginning of the episode with what amounts to a carpet-bombing run of plot reveals. First of all, now the audience has confirmation that Blood Stalk is still playing his own side, seeking to usher in Earth’s destruction. Secondly, it presents another explicit connection between whatever force changed his personality after finding the Box and the consciousness that is affecting Misora. After all, it was interpreting a message from Misora’s bracelet that allowed her and Sento to see the vision of Mars’ destruction earlier in the show.
Going into the third quarter of the show, there are two threats being set up. Nanba’s megalomania, but also the looming destruction of the Earth as a consequence if said megalomania proceeds unchecked. This episode presents these two aspects against each other in a fascinating sequence to start the episode, showing Blood Stalk and Nanba (impersonating Seito’s PM) both orchestrating two different scenes. As Nanba conducts an orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Blood Stalk similarly performs as the Box begins to be open, producing the Tower. At the same time, while the bombastic choral piece echoes around these multiple perspectives, Sento, Ryuga, and Kazumi are left dumbfounded at the sheer level of collateral destruction wrought by both Seito’s invasion and the damage left by the creation of the Sky Tower.
This opening scene is so completely unsubtle that it wraps around to be completely genius. In his fancy orchestra hall, Nanba is oblivious to the suffering he is creating with his actions. However, he’s also oblivious to Blood Stalk’s true purpose, which will also inevitably destroy that which he wishes to build.
The opening for this episode marks the most rapid escalation of this war yet. This also pushes the conflict to a new level which Sento and the others are unable to address in their usual way. Sento’s idealism has turned enemies into allies and helped to save innocent civilians from being made victims in this war. However, against an enemy now aiming only for total destruction and unwilling to be swayed by mercy or reason, our heroes find themselves at a loss to counter such an offensive.
This leads to a comparatively understated and quiet scene, where the Touto Prime Minister questions how to fight back without turning his nation into the same kind of hyper-industrialized war machine that Seito and Hokuto became. Ultimately the dilemma he and Sento ponder is an examination of the Slippery Slope argument. The idea that setting one precedent makes it harder to avoid going further in that direction in the future. It’s a very real concern. After all, the audience has seen numerous characters in this show start out with good intentions, only to take a steep plunge off of it as their power from Pandora’s Box increased. Can our heroes avoid the same fate?
Sento seems to think so and sets himself to fight back against Nanba’s forces more directly while still keeping his ideals of “love and peace” at the forefront. The combined resolve of all three of the Riders seems to hold Blood Stalk and the Hell Brothers to a standstill at the end of the episode. However, there’s one more facet to the power of Pandora’s Box that still remains hidden, the nature of the consciousness controlling Misora. This episode leaves off on a cliffhanger, where she is revealed – Vernage, Queen of Mars. Will she be an ally to Sento and the other Riders? Does she have another motivation for controlling Misora at this moment? Will she hasten the destruction that Blood Stalk seems hell-bent on producing?