Team TokuNet Contributor Sesker continues her review series of Kamen Rider Build with episode 30. With new conspiracies, schemes, and twists in the show’s second half, our heroes are contrasted in familiar ways, while other lines become blurred.
Build, taken as a whole series, moves its plot forward by raising new questions every week. Last week’s episode brought several issues to the forefront. Who is Vernage, is she a friend or foe? Now faced with Nanba and Seito’s combined forces, what is Sento planning to strike back against them? What exactly are Blood Stalk’s motivations for trying to destroy the world behind President Nanba’s back?
The first is answered straightforwardly in an extended scene of exposition. The episode opens up with the team becoming awkwardly acquainted with the other persona hiding out in Misora’s bracelet – Vernage, Queen of Mars.
While she IS a Queen (and carries herself as regally as is possible in a net idol’s form), this scene is also notable because it’s screamingly funny. There’s a very rapid pace to the punchlines as the characters all fish for straight answers from her vague foreshadowing, all of it naturally rooted in their respective characterizations. As a result, the scene consists of everyone taking digs at each other, as much as Vernage herself disdainfully takes digs at Sento’s motley crew of heroes.
A second exposition sequence immediately after this clarifies the information for the kids watching at home. Nonetheless, it also combines the plot explanation with more comedy routines from the characters to spice things up. This is one of the reasons why Build is such a strong series overall. It uses its comedic relief smartly, but also to allow the scenes to serve dual purposes. The funny bits always either flesh out characters through their interactions with others or lead to needed exposition in the heat of the plot’s numerous twists and turns.
The main plot of this episode specifically follows a familiar pattern of the series. Sento decides to do something supremely risky on his own to spare the others the responsibility of those hard decisions and consequences. However, after he commits to his sacrificial role, he’s then reminded his life is important to the others as well and they can accomplish more on their own than apart from each other. Here we see that played out by Sento having himself declared an outlaw from Touto. This leaves him free to directly attack Pandora’s Tower, in a bid to recapture control of the Box inside.
In addition to a familiar tone, this storyline also represents an interesting return to form stylistically. Sento once again becomes an “outlaw” from Touto’s government and we also see the return of motorcycle stunts in his charge to the Tower. While wearing his original Rabbit Tank base suit, no less! Nonetheless, his flashy heroics are soon interrupted and subverted by Ryuga and Kazumi, who remind him of the emotional distress Misora has been put into by his showboating. Sento is very obviously the central heroic protagonist of Build, but scenes like this help to keep him grounded. They remind the audience of the flaws which help define his character other than being “the main Rider”.
If the connections between the main Riders have all grown stronger through this show, the already-uneasy teamwork between the villains is rapidly fraying at the seams. Utsumi and the Hell Brothers are still loyal to death to Nanba, what he tells them to do is never in question. However, Blood Stalk hid the existence of the Tower from him and seems to seek absolute destruction of Earth rather than Nanba’s megalomaniacal rule. Even now, while he brushes off Vernage’s new involvement, the audience gets the sense he still has other designs on hold.
While the first two questions from last week are demonstrated clearly this week, the last one – Blood Stalk’s full schemes – grow increasingly more mysterious. Vernage points out at the beginning of the episode that he’s actually another being from her planet – Evolt. At first, it was assumed that whatever changed Souichi after encountering the Box on Mars was permanent and overriding. We saw no hint of his old personality (described as having a strong sense of justice) remaining. That is, save for what could be affected as a persona to manipulate Sento and Misora into pretending to be heroes against Faust.
However, in this episode, we see for the first time that might not be the case.
The scene where the line between “Blood Stalk” and Souichi becomes blurred is a very interestingly-shot scene. It starts focused on just the Box, and the audience hears Stalk’s voice acted lines from off-camera, but then when he crosses into the frame of the shot, the audience notices that he’s not transformed as Blood Stalk. Compounded by a scene where he argues with himself, the alternate voice signifying now a full-blown switch in the psyche. Previously the audience was led to believe it was simply a function of the suit, as a voice filter.
The full explanation behind this is still unknown. One might naturally assume the voice-acted persona is “Evolt” and his normal speaking voice is his original self. Nonetheless, considering how he’s switched between the two voices before, and judging from his actions both in and out of that suit, it seems that the two personas may have been working in cooperation before. The more obvious split between them now may be due to a new division in their respective intentions this week.
While Stalk seems to have complete control of both the Box’s power and the Tower now, things obviously are not going smoothly for the villains. In addition to Stalk’s subterfuge – on multiple levels – the audience also now sees Gentoku become frustrated at the lack of alignment between his own motivations and the rest of Nanbas’s forces. He only cares about uniting the country under a single, strong ruler – himself. Surely, he must view Nanba’s megalomania, or Stalk’s obsession with unleashing the secret power of the Box, as irritating eccentricities to be tolerated in the meantime. However, as his character has expounded on before, only the strongest can rule. Until he has enough power to depose Nanba outright, he’s stuck with him.
At this point in the show, one of the strongest divisions between the heroes and antagonists is the presence or absence of trust. Sento and his friends have grown so close they can cast friendly insults all around while in his lab, but they all still rely on each other in life-or-death situations. In fact, the time Sento tries to hide his plans from the others this week, he’s quickly reminded why that has never led to good outcomes previously. The question now is whether those bonds of trust are powerful enough to overcome the seemingly limitless resources and schemes of Nanba and Blood Stalk.