Well, that was a goddamn delight. Is this show just going to have me writing glowing reviews for a few weeks? Will these write-ups just be me saying "it was great" and nothing else? I am okay with that!



Starting any new Kamen Rider show is tricky, both for the show and for the audience. As a viewer, I basically need to empty out all of the last show from my brain to make room for the new show. Forget the villains, the heroes, the monsters, the gimmicks, all of it is irrelevant now. (At least until the winter movie.) All that space is necessary for learning about new villains, new heroes, new monsters, and definitely for learning about new gimmicks, which is what's tricky for the producers. They've got an entirely new status quo to set up, and they have to do it within the formula of a Superhero Kicks Monsters Until They Explode franchise. It's got to create a world that can support a year's worth of entertainment, and it's still got to be fun right this minute. It's a tough balancing act, for sure.

The Build team gave themselves, in my opinion, a huge advantage by pulling a lot of story scaffolding from one of my favorite Kamen Rider series: W. In these first few episodes, there's a bunch of elements that remind me of W, and I'm digging all of them.



First, there's the Build/Banjou dynamic, which is straight out of the W "two leads" playbook. (I am having a weirdly difficult time remembering anyone's names so far, so expect maybe a higher than usual amount of substitutions. I'm trying my best!) Build and Banjou don't have to be one Rider, but the way their different approaches to solving a problem end up coming to a solution faster than if they were alone, the way they have different outlooks but still care about doing the right thing, the muscle/brains combination, how one of them has amnesia... I mean, that is a lot of overlap with W.

Second, you've got (at least in the third and fourth episodes) the emphasis on investigation. It's more straight-up detective work than I've seen in a while (I do not miss the Ghost story generator of "someone runs in and says a monster is outside"), and the show doesn't shortcut it a lot. I mean, a little. There's some "I checked with sources" offscreen kinda bullshit, but in a 20-something minute show, I'll allow it. There's a refreshing insistence on connecting dots, plot-wise. Why did this happen, when did this happen, what will happen next, and so on. I don't mean this to be faint praise! This sort of nuts-and-bolts stuff is what helps keep a show on the rails enough to do some really excellent stuff down the line. They're, if you'll forgive the expression, building something in the first few episodes that'll need to support another 40-odd chapters. Screw it up now, it's all probably going to fall apart later. Using the reliable W formula of "the team tracks down the week's monster, while making incremental progress on the season's mystery" is a super solid way to kick things off.

Third, it's a very humor-forward Rider show. I don't remembering laughing (on purpose!) this much since W, and maybe only with W? There's fun parts of a lot of shows, but very few that are really funny. (Admittedly, your mileage may vary on this.) The writing on this show isn't the forced-gag variety, it's clever comebacks and unexpected escalation. Every single member of Team Build got a real, honest laugh out of me at least once in these first few episodes, with some (Build/Banjou, Misora, Sawa) getting a couple three in. That's not to say there's no room for drama! The dramatic beats each episode (especially the "make new memories with your dad" beat at the end of Episode 4) always felt earned, and never gave me whiplash. They balanced the action, drama, and humor well, but I really enjoyed how dominant the humor was. It's not quite a Kamen Rider comedy, but the jokes worked great.

Fourth... y'know, I was going to mention how W and Build might have slightly similar gimmicks, but I'm not really sure that's the case. I mean, W's thing is taking two separate items, each representing a powerful ability, and then inserting them into the Driver in different combinations to create the right match to defeat a particular monster, while... Build's... thing... is... oh. Oh. OH. Yeah, okay, got it.

So, okay, that may seem like it's biting a fair amount from W. And it is? Sort of? But there are two big advantages Build has over W so far.



The biggest advantage at this stage is the cast. It's much larger than W and (I'll say it) much better than W. Team Build snaps into focus very fast, and the first few episodes do a great job of constantly mixing the pairings, finding a variety of interesting matches right away. (It's a motif!) Build/Banjou, Build/Sawa, Banjou/Misora, Build/Misora, Hipster Dad/Build, Banjou/Sawa... that's a whole lot of killer combos in just four episodes. Very few Rider shows manage that over an entire run. Fourze had a huge cast, filled with very fun archetypes, but it was one of my few disappointments that we didn't get to see enough weird combos for their stories. Kamen Rider Build seems like it knows what it has with this cast and these writers, and it's going to get its money's worth.

The other advantage is that they've given themselves a plethora of story generators. Maybe too many? Build's memories, Banjou's framing, Faust, the Sky Wall, the Touto Institute, Pandora's Box, and it just goes on. There's a whole lot of ways to get the characters moving each episode beyond the usual A Monster Appears And There's A New Form Change. Again, it's possible that they've given themselves too many story generators (who knows what about which secret thing was a little hard to keep track of), but I'll always take too many generators than too few. W eventually got to a deeper place with the story, but they were pretty content for a while to do two-episode mysteries and not much more. Build is throwing a whole mess of ideas in the air, and it keeps the early story very propulsive.

Overall, I'm really impressed with how great these first few episodes are. There's really nothing I disliked from this first batch. The suits are gorgeous, the theme song is catchy as hell (be the one, be the lights, alright, now it's stuck in your head too), Night Rogue is an awesomely named villain with a creepy-ass voice, Sawa is a vision and wait what the hell she was in the Accel movie and that Robin Hood episode of Ghost oh and Banjou was in the second season of Amazons is this like an all-star season of Kamen Rider CRAZY. Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, this show is a blast so far. Really having a fun time with it.

To think, I was worried I wouldn't have enough to talk about, what with the show being so fun. Ha ha WHOOPS.

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