With a complex, ever-changing narrative, strong performances, engaging characters and levels of depth no show about men in rubber suits should ever be expected to deliver, Kamen Rider Gaim cranks up the standards for the franchise to all new heights. Look past the blatant toy pitches, the cheesy special effects, the over-the top acting and the childish gender politics. Ignore the irreplaceable damage freaking out over this show will deal to your impeccable reputation. Disregard the claims that shows for kids can’t be great fun for grown-ups as well. Watch Kamen Rider Gaim, or you’ll have missed the most endearing bit of Japanese television to have come out all year.
Aquagaze at The Glorio Blog, who selected Kamen Rider Gaim as his top show of the season.

What’s next for Kamen Radar?

I started this blog to write about Gaim, and now it’s all over. What next?

  1. There will be more – probably much more – writing about Gaim here. I only started reviewing the show near the end, and there’s a lot I would like to write about its individual characters and themes.

  2. I will be reviewing Kamen Rider Drive for as long as I watch it. The first review will be a combination of episodes 1 and 2, in order to give the show some time to establish its footing.
Kamen Rider Gaim – Episode 47 Review
There is a certain kind of person who is going to be really happy with the level of neat and tidy closure that this episode provides.
I am, regrettably, not that kind of person.
I knew going into this episode that I was probably not going to be its biggest fan. For me, the canon of Gaim belongs firmly within Urobuchi’s vision; knowing that he wasn’t the one who wrote this episode, the end cap of the entire series, gave me a feeling that it would seem out of place.
Jin Hagenaya — the writer of this episode, the summer movie, and secondary writer throughout the series — delivers some scenes of value. The awkward dialogue exchanged between Mitsuzane and Takatora over breakfast is a standout, as Takatora seems incredibly sensitive to his little brother’s mental state. The lunch date between Takatora and Akira is equally poignant, even in its brevity.

But the whole episode falls apart once the its antagonist, Kougane — appearing as Armored Rider Jam — takes the stage. I haven’t seen the movie he originates from, but I can’t imagine it would make his shoehorned presence here seem any more natural, and the girl he possesses is a very obvious “we couldn’t get the actor on set” compromise.
Even a moment that should’ve had huge emotional impact, Jounouchi finding out about the fate of Hase, is stilted and tactless. And I don’t buy that Takatora would just let this kid run off to his potential death with the only weapon left to fight the enemy.

Mitsuzane and Kouta having a chance to speak once more is something that I’m happy to see. But I’m equally sad to see it wasted on super-heroic antics. I get it; this is a kid’s action series, and you can’t have a finale without a fight. 25 year old men who write thousands of words analyzing the motivations of its characters are not the show’s target audience. But this episode would have been so much better if it had the time to focus solely on the human aftermath.
In the end, Mitsuzane’s gleeful run to his friends doesn’t feel earned. Him proclaiming he needs to be a “hero” doesn’t fit his character, either. I don’t want him to suffer anymore, but at the same time, he has yet to make amends for the crimes he has committed. Peko still being mad at Mitsuzane might be my favourite part of the episode.

Finally, it offers Kaito some absolution in the form of a quick exchange between him and Mai under the shrine tree, which has suddenly materialized out of nowhere. As nice as it is to see Kaito smile, again, this doesn’t feel earned; none of what Mai is telling him is new information, so why would he suddenly change his mind? Kaito is an interesting character, but he’s also kind of an asshole; this scene strikes me as totally out of character.
Still, there are certain fans of Gaim that are going to be happy to have an episode where all of the loose ends are tied up and everyone smiles and is happy. In that sense, I’m glad the episode exists.
But ultimately, to me, this episode seems to have been born of someone who was uncomfortable with the previous episode’s open-ended, somewhat ambiguous nature. Those of us who preferred that can keep considering 46 (review) as the series finale. I sure will.

Kamen Rider Gaim – Episode 47 Review

There is a certain kind of person who is going to be really happy with the level of neat and tidy closure that this episode provides.

I am, regrettably, not that kind of person.

I knew going into this episode that I was probably not going to be its biggest fan. For me, the canon of Gaim belongs firmly within Urobuchi’s vision; knowing that he wasn’t the one who wrote this episode, the end cap of the entire series, gave me a feeling that it would seem out of place.

Jin Hagenaya — the writer of this episode, the summer movie, and secondary writer throughout the series — delivers some scenes of value. The awkward dialogue exchanged between Mitsuzane and Takatora over breakfast is a standout, as Takatora seems incredibly sensitive to his little brother’s mental state. The lunch date between Takatora and Akira is equally poignant, even in its brevity.

But the whole episode falls apart once the its antagonist, Kougane — appearing as Armored Rider Jam — takes the stage. I haven’t seen the movie he originates from, but I can’t imagine it would make his shoehorned presence here seem any more natural, and the girl he possesses is a very obvious “we couldn’t get the actor on set” compromise.

Even a moment that should’ve had huge emotional impact, Jounouchi finding out about the fate of Hase, is stilted and tactless. And I don’t buy that Takatora would just let this kid run off to his potential death with the only weapon left to fight the enemy.

Mitsuzane and Kouta having a chance to speak once more is something that I’m happy to see. But I’m equally sad to see it wasted on super-heroic antics. I get it; this is a kid’s action series, and you can’t have a finale without a fight. 25 year old men who write thousands of words analyzing the motivations of its characters are not the show’s target audience. But this episode would have been so much better if it had the time to focus solely on the human aftermath.

In the end, Mitsuzane’s gleeful run to his friends doesn’t feel earned. Him proclaiming he needs to be a “hero” doesn’t fit his character, either. I don’t want him to suffer anymore, but at the same time, he has yet to make amends for the crimes he has committed. Peko still being mad at Mitsuzane might be my favourite part of the episode.

Finally, it offers Kaito some absolution in the form of a quick exchange between him and Mai under the shrine tree, which has suddenly materialized out of nowhere. As nice as it is to see Kaito smile, again, this doesn’t feel earned; none of what Mai is telling him is new information, so why would he suddenly change his mind? Kaito is an interesting character, but he’s also kind of an asshole; this scene strikes me as totally out of character.

Still, there are certain fans of Gaim that are going to be happy to have an episode where all of the loose ends are tied up and everyone smiles and is happy. In that sense, I’m glad the episode exists.

But ultimately, to me, this episode seems to have been born of someone who was uncomfortable with the previous episode’s open-ended, somewhat ambiguous nature. Those of us who preferred that can keep considering 46 (review) as the series finale. I sure will.

breakingsasuke replied to your post: Kamen Rider Gaim – Episode 46 (Finale)…

As someone who never really sympathize for Mitsuzane, I felt that the show dealt with him better than how they dealt with my favourite character. “Kaito’s End” didn’t really touch my heartstrings. The fight with Kouta was kind of underwhelming too :U

I think their final fight is pretty good, but it’s cut up into too many pieces. If it was seamless, it’d be a lot better.

Kamen Rider Gaim – Episode 46 Review
One year ago, I was pretty sure I was done with Kamen Rider.
After struggling through Fourze and having dropped Wizard after fourteen meandering episodes, I had little faith that I would ever be able to enjoy the series again. Fourze lacked the gravitas to ground its sense of humour, and the first quarter of Wizard was shrill and empty, with an obnoxious cast of characters and a complete lack of plot or interesting mystery.
Both of these followed OOO, a series I hold dear for so many reasons. The story is straightforward and ultimately satisfying, comfortably avoiding the pitfalls of convolution that so many of its predecessors fell prey to. The relationship between Eiji and Ankh is both complex and endearing, and remains untouched as the best character dynamic I’ve seen in Kamen Rider. The suit designs, derided as awkward and un-Rider-like at first, ended up becoming fan favourites, and are still perhaps the best manifestation of Toei’s vision of an item-swapping Rider.
None of this is to place the blame on Fourze or Wizard themselves, the former of which is hugely well-regarded and the latter of which … is regarded as a thing that happened. It was more about myself having perhaps grown tired of the two-episode arcs, of the increasingly unhinged and slapstick attempts at humour, at the decreased focus on plots that develop as a slow burn over many episodes.
So when I heard about Gaim, which at the time of its announcement, was best described as breakdancing teenagers who play Pokémon in the streets of a corporate-owned city, only to transform into samurai-fruit-bug-men, the concept seemed difficult to swallow, at best. Even knowing that the prolific Gen Urobuchi — whose work on Puella Magi Madoka Magica I enjoyed — was at the helm was not enough to convince me. I waited a few weeks after it started airing to pick it up, being relatively unimpressed with the first episode. I trudged forward regardless.
Somewhere around episode 4, when Kouta faces Takatora in the forest of Helheim and is utterly shell-shocked by the powers involved, Gaim’s fascinating machinations began to reveal themselves. I was sucked in, and haven’t wanted to leave since.
And now, the penultimate episode — and for all intents and purposes, the finale — of the show that revived my love of Kamen Rider has come and gone. The merits of Gaim as a complete work will be argued (as they should be), but it’s inarguable that Gaim’s journey, relative to most Kamen Rider entries, has an incredible scope that repeatedly transforms its world into new, unrecognizable forms. And while the journey is definitely the most important thing, it can all be undone if the destination is a garbage dump instead of the fireworks factory you’d hoped for.
And let’s be honest: in Kamen Rider, it’s very rarely ever the fireworks factory.

Thankfully, we’re in the midst of a pretty explosive moment already, as the final battle between Kouta and Kaito is reaching its climax. Kaito’s ideology has been a sore point for a lot of people who don’t understand how Kaito went from wanting to be strong in order to oppress others to hating that very same type of person. But this is completely consistent with Kaito’s worldview; he resents the world that has forced him to seek out power in order to avoid being trampled. None of this is to imply that his belief system is rational; it’s pretty pathological, but none of us should expect moderatism from the big bad of a tokusatsu epic.
Back in episode 20, when Kaito learns the truth of Helheim’s flora and falls in line with Ryouma’s party at Yggdrasil, he stakes out his rationale for letting Helheim consume the world:

A world inundated in lies and deceit deserves destruction! Those who have forgotten how to fight don’t deserve to live.

It seems clear to me now that those who are weak and those who have forgotten how to fight are not the same group of people. Kaito is referring to “those who trust only their strength and trample the weak;” the complacent, privileged sectors of society with the power to oppress. The weak are used to fighting for everything that they have. This is a struggle that Kaito identifies with and now, drunk on the power that he has been seeking for so long, his anger only lets him see a single path forward: to destroy it all, and replace it with something new.
This is, of course, something Kouta can both sympathize with but ultimately reject; his entire journey has been fighting against the iron rule that demands sacrifice in the name of hope. His fight with Kaito is one of my favourite fights in Kamen Rider; the CGI effects are used sparingly, with the focus being on the sheer struggle of it all. It’s unfortunate, then, that the momentum of the fight severely suffers by not only being split across two episodes, but having the opening sequence interrupt it. If any two-parter begged for a seamless director’s cut, it’s this one.
While Kaito handily overpowers Kouta for the majority of the fight, Kaito is undone when Kouta uses his own incredible strength against him, breaking his sword in half and using the end to stab through his body. This scene is handled about as well as it could be — there are no flashy finishers, no grandstanding, no sense of triumph. Kouta screams as he pierces the flesh of someone he considered to be his friend. In the previous episode, Kaito said, “I have nothing left to protect or lose, so I cannot be defeated.” Kouta’s last-ditch effort and his perseverance were enabled by the desire to protect something.

And as Kaito finally acknowledges Kouta’s strength, he dies in his arms. This all happens about as fast as it would seem from my writing about it, and this quick pace continues through the first half of the finale, leaving almost no space for mourning or for reflecting on its events. While Gaim’s rapid developments have often been one of its high points, the finale is exactly where it’s OK to take your time. I should’ve been crying my eyes out at Kaito’s death, but I wasn’t.
Perhaps there are other factors at blame for that, though. While I think Kaito’s actions have been completely in line with his character, I also think that the build-up to this could’ve been handled better. And perhaps nowhere is that more evident than the relationship between Kaito and Mai.

There are tons of scenes in Gaim that indicate a seismic shift in the relationship between Kaito and Mai, but it never really comes to fruition. Kaito’s relationship with Mai the person seems to come to an abrupt end as soon as she becomes Mai, the fruit bestower. While I think it’s absurd to berate a program for not matching the inflated expectations of its viewers, when you explicitly set up those expectations yourself, you’re asking for trouble.
The problems with Mai continue to an anti-climax in this episode, as she’s basically told that now that Kaito’s dead, she can go back to Kouta and give him the fruit, or whatever. Mai makes no meaningful choices on her own, nor does she ever have the opportunity to do so. She says nothing insightful or of interest — her major dialogue of the episode is reminding us that Kaito is in pain because of how the world forces the weak to be strong, mere moments after he says the exact same thing. No shit.

One interesting touch is the fact that the Fruit of Knowledge seems to literally bestow knowledge, rather than simply being a mythological throwaway reference. Having bitten it, Kouta is aware of all the cosmos, and finds a new world where he and Mai can build humanity’s next stage, rather than destroying the Earth to do so. Both Kouta and Mai seem like entirely different people than before they were blessed by the fruit. While it’s a competent enough ending, there is nothing heroic and triumphant about it. The fact that any of this even makes sense is enough to put it into the upper-echelons of Kamen Rider conclusions, but it’s still fairly anti-climactic.
What’s fascinating is that, for a show that roots a lot of motifs in Japanese traditionalism — and kabuki theatre in particular — there is precedent for such a rapid denouement. Known as jo-ha-kyū, it’s a type of structure that dictates things begin very slowly, accelerate and reach their climax, and then end swiftly. Heaven forgive me for referencing Wikipedia, but:

Zeami, in his work “Sandō" (The Three Paths), originally described a five-part (five dan) Noh play as the ideal form. It begins slowly and auspiciously in the first part (jo), building up the drama and tension in the second, third, and fourth parts (ha), with the greatest climax in the third dan, and rapidly concluding with a return to peace and auspiciousness in the fifth dan (kyū).

It’s impossible to not draw parallels with Gaim’s overall narrative structure. Of course, it’s difficult to emulate this exactly over the span of roughly fifteen hours of programming, but they seem to have taken a fair shake at it. The show is actually broken into five acts (source):
Episodes 1 - 11: Beat Riders vs. Invess
Episodes 12 - 23: Beat Riders vs. Yggdrasill
Episodes 24 - 32: Beat Riders + Yggdrasill vs. Overlords
Episodes 33 - 41: Armored Riders vs. Overlords
Episodes 42 - 47: Kouta vs. Kaito
And while the drama does pick up rather early in the first act, its implications are fairly unclear, and Kouta interprets the power he has received as a fairly auspicious one until his clash with Takatora in episode 4. In addition to that, I would argue that the greatest climax of the show occurs not at the end, but during the third and fourth acts. None of this means that anyone should like the ending simply because of its traditionalist structure; it simply provides a potential answer to why things are structured this way.
But jo-ha-kyū sets no precedent for fatalism, an uncomfortably-recurring theme for many viewers. Unlike in Madoka Magica, where Madoka essentially becomes a God and rewrites the universe to suit her desires, Kouta’s solution is very localized — he manages to avert Earth’s cataclysmic fate, but Helheim is free to move onto the next world and compel evolution via destruction. (Though it isn’t clear how this happens — since Kouta took the forest of Helheim with him, will Cracks open between his new world and Helheim’s new target? Or is that process now broken entirely, and Helheim has found a new method?)

The idea that Kouta should fight Helheim is misguided, though (never mind that Helheim has no physical form that can be fought). At this point, Helheim has no reason to lie about anything, so I believe it when it says that its just the “medium in which fate operates,” and that the world’s destruction is inevitable. Helheim is the incarnation of the apathetic universe that surrounds us, a reminder that no matter what we do, we sometimes cannot avoid facing the most dire circumstances. But what we can do is make the best of the trials that face us, as Kouta and Mai do during Gaim’s conclusion. Helheim repeating the cycle anew in a new world may be a somewhat cynical ending, but it’s at least an honest one.
Urobuchi is known for cynicism, and while I do enjoy the somewhat grimmer slant that Gaim has taken, it would’ve been unfortunate for this to rot the core of what is ultimately a franchise about heroism and compassion. So it was with great relief that the second half of the ending dashed my fears.

The sympathetic portrayal of Mitsuzane — which, crucially, does not forgive the horrible things he has done, as the show goes out of its way to point out — has been ramping up ever since he accepted the Hell Fruit Lock Seed in episode 42. That portrayal reaches a climax in this episode, with Zack’s impassioned speech inviting him back to dance with them and keep the memories of Kouta, Mai and Kaito alive being, for me, the emotional high-point of the episode. And, as if making me feel sorrow and empathy for someone I would’ve wished death on a few months ago wasn’t enough, Gaim moves on to do the unthinkable:
It brings Takatora back, and it doesn’t feel cheap.
Despite knowing to never believe someone in Kamen Rider is dead if you don’t see the body, I had felt pretty certain about Takatora not coming back. Much like every other “certain prediction” I’ve had about Gaim, it was dashed thoroughly, because I hadn’t accounted for the scenario of Mitsuzane needing him for support. Any revival of Takatora, I felt, would be tacky fan-pandering, as he had no role left to serve after having let Mitsuzane run amok. Takatora surviving — albeit with severe brain damage — may seem implausible, but crucially, it provides a chance of salvation to a character who desperately needs it, and prevents Gaim’s finale from descending entirely into a cynical fatalism.
Of course, the thought of Mitsuzane having to look after his brother’s vegetated body is certainly more tragic than Takatora being deceased. As Mitsuzane enters the room, he replaces the flowers by Takatora’s bedside, something he’s clearly been doing for some time. With the fury of the apocalypse now cleared from Mitsuzane’s psyche, he can now see, in plain sight, the atrocity that he’s committed.

This scenario also thankfully rehumanizes Kouta, as he appears inside Takatora’s mind to ask him if he’s willing to return to the world and support Mitsuzane. The combination of kindness and passion that made up the best part of Kouta’s character was seemingly erased once he bit the fruit; to see him here, as his usual self, doing what he does best, is the perfect send-off for the character.
And much like Mitsuzane, Kouta reminds us that Takatora is also a person who needs redemption after having buckled under the weight of the oncoming threat of Helheim. But people can change. Fate is not, as it often seems, set in stone. Sure, there are parameters that we are forced to exist in, threats that we must face; but how we react to those things is our own choice. Both Mitsuzane and Takatora chose to make the wrong decisions. But crucially, Kouta is offering them both a chance to make the right ones. While the Golden Fruit cannot revive the dead, its power is otherwise near-limitless.

Takatora’s smile is the best ending that I could have hoped for.
While Gaim made many regrettable missteps in the lead-up to its finale — particularly with regards to Yoko and Mai, as I’ve covered extensively — I believe that the show has stuck its landing overall. While the next episode is the truly final one, it’s not written by Urobuchi, and has tie-ins with the summer movie. It’s a victory lap, essentially.
But this episode is everything that Gaim needs to close its story. It offers not the guarantee of Mitsuzane’s healing, but the possibility of it. It offers forgiveness, not a grand act of redemption. I don’t want nor need to know the specifics of how Mitsuzane and Takatora move forward.
Hope is enough. And Kouta, having been a beacon of hope for so long, has given it to them.

Kamen Rider Gaim – Episode 46 Review

One year ago, I was pretty sure I was done with Kamen Rider.

After struggling through Fourze and having dropped Wizard after fourteen meandering episodes, I had little faith that I would ever be able to enjoy the series again. Fourze lacked the gravitas to ground its sense of humour, and the first quarter of Wizard was shrill and empty, with an obnoxious cast of characters and a complete lack of plot or interesting mystery.

Both of these followed OOO, a series I hold dear for so many reasons. The story is straightforward and ultimately satisfying, comfortably avoiding the pitfalls of convolution that so many of its predecessors fell prey to. The relationship between Eiji and Ankh is both complex and endearing, and remains untouched as the best character dynamic I’ve seen in Kamen Rider. The suit designs, derided as awkward and un-Rider-like at first, ended up becoming fan favourites, and are still perhaps the best manifestation of Toei’s vision of an item-swapping Rider.

None of this is to place the blame on Fourze or Wizard themselves, the former of which is hugely well-regarded and the latter of which … is regarded as a thing that happened. It was more about myself having perhaps grown tired of the two-episode arcs, of the increasingly unhinged and slapstick attempts at humour, at the decreased focus on plots that develop as a slow burn over many episodes.

So when I heard about Gaim, which at the time of its announcement, was best described as breakdancing teenagers who play Pokémon in the streets of a corporate-owned city, only to transform into samurai-fruit-bug-men, the concept seemed difficult to swallow, at best. Even knowing that the prolific Gen Urobuchi — whose work on Puella Magi Madoka Magica I enjoyed — was at the helm was not enough to convince me. I waited a few weeks after it started airing to pick it up, being relatively unimpressed with the first episode. I trudged forward regardless.

Somewhere around episode 4, when Kouta faces Takatora in the forest of Helheim and is utterly shell-shocked by the powers involved, Gaim’s fascinating machinations began to reveal themselves. I was sucked in, and haven’t wanted to leave since.

And now, the penultimate episode — and for all intents and purposes, the finale — of the show that revived my love of Kamen Rider has come and gone. The merits of Gaim as a complete work will be argued (as they should be), but it’s inarguable that Gaim’s journey, relative to most Kamen Rider entries, has an incredible scope that repeatedly transforms its world into new, unrecognizable forms. And while the journey is definitely the most important thing, it can all be undone if the destination is a garbage dump instead of the fireworks factory you’d hoped for.

And let’s be honest: in Kamen Rider, it’s very rarely ever the fireworks factory.

Thankfully, we’re in the midst of a pretty explosive moment already, as the final battle between Kouta and Kaito is reaching its climax. Kaito’s ideology has been a sore point for a lot of people who don’t understand how Kaito went from wanting to be strong in order to oppress others to hating that very same type of person. But this is completely consistent with Kaito’s worldview; he resents the world that has forced him to seek out power in order to avoid being trampled. None of this is to imply that his belief system is rational; it’s pretty pathological, but none of us should expect moderatism from the big bad of a tokusatsu epic.

Back in episode 20, when Kaito learns the truth of Helheim’s flora and falls in line with Ryouma’s party at Yggdrasil, he stakes out his rationale for letting Helheim consume the world:

A world inundated in lies and deceit deserves destruction! Those who have forgotten how to fight don’t deserve to live.

It seems clear to me now that those who are weak and those who have forgotten how to fight are not the same group of people. Kaito is referring to “those who trust only their strength and trample the weak;” the complacent, privileged sectors of society with the power to oppress. The weak are used to fighting for everything that they have. This is a struggle that Kaito identifies with and now, drunk on the power that he has been seeking for so long, his anger only lets him see a single path forward: to destroy it all, and replace it with something new.

This is, of course, something Kouta can both sympathize with but ultimately reject; his entire journey has been fighting against the iron rule that demands sacrifice in the name of hope. His fight with Kaito is one of my favourite fights in Kamen Rider; the CGI effects are used sparingly, with the focus being on the sheer struggle of it all. It’s unfortunate, then, that the momentum of the fight severely suffers by not only being split across two episodes, but having the opening sequence interrupt it. If any two-parter begged for a seamless director’s cut, it’s this one.

While Kaito handily overpowers Kouta for the majority of the fight, Kaito is undone when Kouta uses his own incredible strength against him, breaking his sword in half and using the end to stab through his body. This scene is handled about as well as it could be — there are no flashy finishers, no grandstanding, no sense of triumph. Kouta screams as he pierces the flesh of someone he considered to be his friend. In the previous episode, Kaito said, “I have nothing left to protect or lose, so I cannot be defeated.” Kouta’s last-ditch effort and his perseverance were enabled by the desire to protect something.

And as Kaito finally acknowledges Kouta’s strength, he dies in his arms. This all happens about as fast as it would seem from my writing about it, and this quick pace continues through the first half of the finale, leaving almost no space for mourning or for reflecting on its events. While Gaim’s rapid developments have often been one of its high points, the finale is exactly where it’s OK to take your time. I should’ve been crying my eyes out at Kaito’s death, but I wasn’t.

Perhaps there are other factors at blame for that, though. While I think Kaito’s actions have been completely in line with his character, I also think that the build-up to this could’ve been handled better. And perhaps nowhere is that more evident than the relationship between Kaito and Mai.

There are tons of scenes in Gaim that indicate a seismic shift in the relationship between Kaito and Mai, but it never really comes to fruition. Kaito’s relationship with Mai the person seems to come to an abrupt end as soon as she becomes Mai, the fruit bestower. While I think it’s absurd to berate a program for not matching the inflated expectations of its viewers, when you explicitly set up those expectations yourself, you’re asking for trouble.

The problems with Mai continue to an anti-climax in this episode, as she’s basically told that now that Kaito’s dead, she can go back to Kouta and give him the fruit, or whatever. Mai makes no meaningful choices on her own, nor does she ever have the opportunity to do so. She says nothing insightful or of interest — her major dialogue of the episode is reminding us that Kaito is in pain because of how the world forces the weak to be strong, mere moments after he says the exact same thing. No shit.

One interesting touch is the fact that the Fruit of Knowledge seems to literally bestow knowledge, rather than simply being a mythological throwaway reference. Having bitten it, Kouta is aware of all the cosmos, and finds a new world where he and Mai can build humanity’s next stage, rather than destroying the Earth to do so. Both Kouta and Mai seem like entirely different people than before they were blessed by the fruit. While it’s a competent enough ending, there is nothing heroic and triumphant about it. The fact that any of this even makes sense is enough to put it into the upper-echelons of Kamen Rider conclusions, but it’s still fairly anti-climactic.

What’s fascinating is that, for a show that roots a lot of motifs in Japanese traditionalism — and kabuki theatre in particular — there is precedent for such a rapid denouement. Known as jo-ha-kyū, it’s a type of structure that dictates things begin very slowly, accelerate and reach their climax, and then end swiftly. Heaven forgive me for referencing Wikipedia, but:

Zeami, in his work “Sandō" (The Three Paths), originally described a five-part (five dan) Noh play as the ideal form. It begins slowly and auspiciously in the first part (jo), building up the drama and tension in the second, third, and fourth parts (ha), with the greatest climax in the third dan, and rapidly concluding with a return to peace and auspiciousness in the fifth dan (kyū).

It’s impossible to not draw parallels with Gaim’s overall narrative structure. Of course, it’s difficult to emulate this exactly over the span of roughly fifteen hours of programming, but they seem to have taken a fair shake at it. The show is actually broken into five acts (source):

  • Episodes 1 - 11: Beat Riders vs. Invess
  • Episodes 12 - 23: Beat Riders vs. Yggdrasill
  • Episodes 24 - 32: Beat Riders + Yggdrasill vs. Overlords
  • Episodes 33 - 41: Armored Riders vs. Overlords
  • Episodes 42 - 47: Kouta vs. Kaito

And while the drama does pick up rather early in the first act, its implications are fairly unclear, and Kouta interprets the power he has received as a fairly auspicious one until his clash with Takatora in episode 4. In addition to that, I would argue that the greatest climax of the show occurs not at the end, but during the third and fourth acts. None of this means that anyone should like the ending simply because of its traditionalist structure; it simply provides a potential answer to why things are structured this way.

But jo-ha-kyū sets no precedent for fatalism, an uncomfortably-recurring theme for many viewers. Unlike in Madoka Magica, where Madoka essentially becomes a God and rewrites the universe to suit her desires, Kouta’s solution is very localized — he manages to avert Earth’s cataclysmic fate, but Helheim is free to move onto the next world and compel evolution via destruction. (Though it isn’t clear how this happens — since Kouta took the forest of Helheim with him, will Cracks open between his new world and Helheim’s new target? Or is that process now broken entirely, and Helheim has found a new method?)

The idea that Kouta should fight Helheim is misguided, though (never mind that Helheim has no physical form that can be fought). At this point, Helheim has no reason to lie about anything, so I believe it when it says that its just the “medium in which fate operates,” and that the world’s destruction is inevitable. Helheim is the incarnation of the apathetic universe that surrounds us, a reminder that no matter what we do, we sometimes cannot avoid facing the most dire circumstances. But what we can do is make the best of the trials that face us, as Kouta and Mai do during Gaim’s conclusion. Helheim repeating the cycle anew in a new world may be a somewhat cynical ending, but it’s at least an honest one.

Urobuchi is known for cynicism, and while I do enjoy the somewhat grimmer slant that Gaim has taken, it would’ve been unfortunate for this to rot the core of what is ultimately a franchise about heroism and compassion. So it was with great relief that the second half of the ending dashed my fears.

The sympathetic portrayal of Mitsuzane — which, crucially, does not forgive the horrible things he has done, as the show goes out of its way to point out — has been ramping up ever since he accepted the Hell Fruit Lock Seed in episode 42. That portrayal reaches a climax in this episode, with Zack’s impassioned speech inviting him back to dance with them and keep the memories of Kouta, Mai and Kaito alive being, for me, the emotional high-point of the episode. And, as if making me feel sorrow and empathy for someone I would’ve wished death on a few months ago wasn’t enough, Gaim moves on to do the unthinkable:

It brings Takatora back, and it doesn’t feel cheap.

Despite knowing to never believe someone in Kamen Rider is dead if you don’t see the body, I had felt pretty certain about Takatora not coming back. Much like every other “certain prediction” I’ve had about Gaim, it was dashed thoroughly, because I hadn’t accounted for the scenario of Mitsuzane needing him for support. Any revival of Takatora, I felt, would be tacky fan-pandering, as he had no role left to serve after having let Mitsuzane run amok. Takatora surviving — albeit with severe brain damage — may seem implausible, but crucially, it provides a chance of salvation to a character who desperately needs it, and prevents Gaim’s finale from descending entirely into a cynical fatalism.

Of course, the thought of Mitsuzane having to look after his brother’s vegetated body is certainly more tragic than Takatora being deceased. As Mitsuzane enters the room, he replaces the flowers by Takatora’s bedside, something he’s clearly been doing for some time. With the fury of the apocalypse now cleared from Mitsuzane’s psyche, he can now see, in plain sight, the atrocity that he’s committed.

This scenario also thankfully rehumanizes Kouta, as he appears inside Takatora’s mind to ask him if he’s willing to return to the world and support Mitsuzane. The combination of kindness and passion that made up the best part of Kouta’s character was seemingly erased once he bit the fruit; to see him here, as his usual self, doing what he does best, is the perfect send-off for the character.

And much like Mitsuzane, Kouta reminds us that Takatora is also a person who needs redemption after having buckled under the weight of the oncoming threat of Helheim. But people can change. Fate is not, as it often seems, set in stone. Sure, there are parameters that we are forced to exist in, threats that we must face; but how we react to those things is our own choice. Both Mitsuzane and Takatora chose to make the wrong decisions. But crucially, Kouta is offering them both a chance to make the right ones. While the Golden Fruit cannot revive the dead, its power is otherwise near-limitless.

Takatora’s smile is the best ending that I could have hoped for.

While Gaim made many regrettable missteps in the lead-up to its finale — particularly with regards to Yoko and Mai, as I’ve covered extensively — I believe that the show has stuck its landing overall. While the next episode is the truly final one, it’s not written by Urobuchi, and has tie-ins with the summer movie. It’s a victory lap, essentially.

But this episode is everything that Gaim needs to close its story. It offers not the guarantee of Mitsuzane’s healing, but the possibility of it. It offers forgiveness, not a grand act of redemption. I don’t want nor need to know the specifics of how Mitsuzane and Takatora move forward.

Hope is enough. And Kouta, having been a beacon of hope for so long, has given it to them.

tokuqsf

tokuqsf:

I think for me, the thing is that in the show, the deaths of Takatora, Zack and Yoko were shown as equally “final”. We were meant to believe they were dead.

And then at the end it was shown that no, Takatora had been in the hospital all this time, and Zack wasn’t dead at all, and yet Yoko was…

I think it is telling that we did not find her stashed away somewhere by Kaito. It would have been equally probable in the narrative as the other two (more probable than Takatora).

Can’t agree. Zack was very obviously not dead. Takatora really did seem dead though, but we never saw a body; it simply seemed impossible to survive that. But not showing us what happened to him lets the show fill in the blanks in whichever way it needs to.

Yoko, we saw fall from building, then go through her last words, and then die, in Kaito’s arms.

Either way, this discussion is pretty pointless. Lament the way Yoko died if you want, but complaining about her not being brought back is nonsensical.

cannibal-sarracenian

cannibal-sarracenian:

arkadot:

kamenradar:

cannibal-sarracenian:

… Oh my god Minako is still dead.

Are you serious with this?

(I assume you mean Yoko Minato.)

The replies to this post:

grand-aki said: HEY WE REVIVED THE FAN FAVORITE BUT THE GIRL THAT JUST GOT MANIPULATED TO SHIT? YEAH, SHE DED

kaijuvsgiantrobotsvsme said: That’s about the reaction, yeah. Undo everyone else’s death but leave the lady ‘cause only men can beat back death with their might manitude.

I mean this in the most sincere way: what are you guys talking about?

Nobody was brought back from the dead. It’s actually a plot point that the power of the Golden Fruit cannot revive the dead. You know, that whole thing with Roshuo and his queen?

Kouta is able to revive Takatora specifically because he is not dead. He can heal the damage to his mind, but he cannot resuscitate someone who has already died. If he could, he would have assuredly revived Hase and Yuuya, and perhaps Kaito and Yoko.

There is a huge amount of misinformation and complete misinterpretation going around about this episode. Kind of crazy. 

Gaim is just about done and detractors are still finding petty shit to complain about. 

It’s obviously okay to dislike Gaim. It’s possible to have intelligent, informed criticisms about the show. Actual articulate discussions about the show’s themes, informed disagreement, and insightful analysis that goes beyond nitpicking.

But I am glad everyone is staying consistent and continuing to reach for the low-hanging fruit.

Pun fucking intended.

Gaim killed off its female Rider and one of the only two female characters that have any relevance to the plot consistently given an insipid motivation that only serve to depower her and put her in the sideline supporter role, without any sort of proper backstory to even excuse it.

This act, coming after already a well-established and atrociously sexist history this franchise has with its female Riders, and coming directly after Kamen Rider Wizard actually giving its female Rider not only a proper backstory and motivation, but also the mere act of keeping her alive as Rider at the end.
The fact that this is even an achievement tells you how fucked up this is.

So here comes Gaim that decides, on top of already making its female characters basically props and MacGuffins for the men to chase after (making it even worse than an average Rider show, where at least the female supporting characters are decently written and have character agency), makes its only female Rider’s motivation a glorified “wants to support a man”, and then kill her off, then twisting the knife by explicitly comparing the female Rider with the woman turned MacGuffin the men chase after, unironically via actual dialogue.

You know

Just petty shit.

You’re moving the goal posts.

Your original post was complaining that Yoko is still dead. The obvious response is of course she is; why wouldn’t she be? Nobody’s been brought back from the dead in this show. She fell from a building and died in Kaito’s arms. The chances of her coming back were literally zero.

Now you’re complaining about Yoko’s death, and Gaim’s sexism, in general. You want to do that? Cool. I’ve written at length about it already. It’s a blight on the show. But you can’t take your original argument, completely re-contextualize it as a different argument once shown that your original premise lacks merit, and then act like you’ve won.

The discussion was never about if Gaim was a sexist show or not. It is. It’s more sexist than older entries in the franchise. Yoko’s death was poorly written and pointless. Mai was clearly objectified and turned into a plot device. These are not controversial stances to take, even among fans of the show.

cannibal-sarracenian

cannibal-sarracenian:

… Oh my god Minako is still dead.

Are you serious with this?

(I assume you mean Yoko Minato.)

The replies to this post:

grand-aki said: HEY WE REVIVED THE FAN FAVORITE BUT THE GIRL THAT JUST GOT MANIPULATED TO SHIT? YEAH, SHE DED

kaijuvsgiantrobotsvsme said: That’s about the reaction, yeah. Undo everyone else’s death but leave the lady ‘cause only men can beat back death with their might manitude.

I mean this in the most sincere way: what are you guys talking about?

Nobody was brought back from the dead. It’s actually a plot point that the power of the Golden Fruit cannot revive the dead. You know, that whole thing with Roshuo and his queen?

Kouta is able to revive Takatora specifically because he is not dead. He can heal the damage to his mind, but he cannot resuscitate someone who has already died. If he could, he would have assuredly revived Hase and Yuuya, and perhaps Kaito and Yoko.

There is a huge amount of misinformation and complete misinterpretation going around about this episode. Kind of crazy. 

akio91

akio91:

Assuming that Yoko is revealed to be alive in the next episode, the final death toll for Kamen Rider Gaim is 3.  

And they’re all people that Kouta directly killed. 

Let that sink in for a second.  

Assuming that this thing that has no chance of happening happens, the final death toll for Kamen Rider Gaim is 4:

  • Yuuya, irreversibly transformed into a monster, killed by Kouta unknowingly
  • Demushu, after gaining Zenith Arms
  • Redue, killed by Kouta after she killed Roshuo
  • Kaito, bent on destroying the Earth, killed by Kouta

Of course, that ignores:

  • Sid, killed by Roshuo
  • Roshuo, killed by Redue
  • Hase, killed by Sid after transforming into an Inves
  • Ryouma, killed by Kaito
  • Mai, killed by Ryouma (only to later return as a higher life-form)
  • All the other dead Overlords
  • Countless people who inevitably died from the Helheim infection
  • Everyone in America killed by the redirected missiles
  • Countless deaths worldwide caused by Roshuo hastening the opening of the Cracks

But, y’know. Details.