The following article was submitted by STALK.
It’s now September, and tokusatsu fans always know what this means: A new Kamen Rider! But before we enter a new season of Kamen Rider, let’s take a look back at Kamen Rider Build, the series for 2017/2018.
Disclaimer: The following article contains spoilers for the Kamen Rider Build series.
Kamen Rider Build tells the story of Sento Kiryu, an amnesiac scientist who lives in a world haunted by the Sky Wall Tragedy, an incident 10 years ago that caused an impenetrable wall to appear and divide Japan into Seito, Touto and Hokuto. The three nations lived in relative harmony, but always eyed the power of Pandora’s Box, an extra-terrestrial Box recovered from Mars.
Sento lives as a scientist by day working for the Touto government, but by night, he fights Faust, a secret society experimenting on humans led by Night Rogue and Blood Stalk, turning humans into monsters called Smash. Joining Sento along for the ride is Banjo Ryuga, an innocent man convicted of murder who eventually transforms into Kamen Rider Cross-Z; Misora Isurugi, a young idol with the power to purify the essence of the Smashes; Soichi Isurugi, Misora’s father who owns Café Nascita; and Sawa Takigawa, a reporter who can get any information.
Eventually the story escalates to an all-out war as the three nations fight over Pandora’s Box, with Hokuto sending Kamen Rider Grease / Kazumi Sawatari, a potato farmer obsessed with Misora’s idol identity, and Seito sending Kamen Rider Rogue / Gentoku Himuro, the true identity of Night Rogue who was disgraced when Sento unmasked him.
Pandora’s Box eventually makes its way into Blood Stalk’s hands, with his identity revealed to be a possessed Soichi, who is forcibly bonded to an alien known as Evolto. Using Pandora’s Box, Evolto obtains his complete form – Kamen Rider Evol, and proceeds to destroy the world, with only the Kamen Riders standing in his way.
Sento Kiryu/Kamen Rider Build
Sento is the main character who starts off as an amnesiac scientist. Throughout the series he struggles with the concept of “science used for war” and has doubts and insecurities, blaming himself for the events that transpired. Ultimately he chooses to fight for justice, because of his belief that science can be used to better humanity.
Banjo Ryuuga/Kamen Rider Cross-z
Banjo is the secondary character and Sento’s partner (in more ways than one). He starts out an escaped convict framed for a murder, who is vital to Faust’s grand plan. After losing his girlfriend to Faust’s experiments, he awakens his true power and fights for justice, but he harbors a dark secret inside.
Kazumi Sawatari/Kamen Rider Grease
A potato farmer from Hokuto who gets drafted into the war between the various nations. Curiously obsessed with Mii-tan, Misora’s alter ego, his passion for fighting burns bright like a fire, yet he remains cool as ice under pressure.
Himuro Gentoku/Kamen Rider Rogue/Night Rogue
Gentoku starts off as Night Rogue, the leader of Faust and a major antagonist, but when his actions cause him to be exiled from Touto, he joins Seito as their Kamen Rider. But eventually, he joins Sento to fight a greater threat to the world.
Misora is Sento’s ally who has the power to purify Full Bottles, which seems to be tied to her mysterious bracelet. She also has a secret identity as Mii-tan, a popular web idol that has a massive fanbase aiding the Riders in gathering information.
Soichi Isurugi/Blood Stalk/Evolto/Kamen Rider Evol
Evolto, masquerading as Soichi Isurugi, is the source of Pandora’s Box and the true villain of the series. He is an extraterrestrial entity bent on consuming planets (a la Galactus) who has set his sights on Earth after devastating Mars. He starts off as Blood Stalk, but eventually recovers his powers as Kamen Rider Evol.
Plot-wise, Kamen Rider Build starts off as a fairly generic Rider series, with a lot of throwbacks to early series such as the Showa riders, evil organizations, human experimentation and the familiar monster of the week formula. But even during the first few episodes, there was a hint of a greater plot, introducing the overarching mythology of the series, especially the mystery of Misora’s bangle and the Sky Wall.
One thing I particularly admired about Build is the willingness to show an actual war, and the Kamen Riders as weapons of war. Previous Kamen Riders hinted at it, especially 2013’s Kamen Rider Gaim, where the Riders fought a proxy war through dance-offs, but Build is the first series to openly portray the Riders as weapons, however much unwilling they were.
Not only is this concept executed beautifully, but another plot point that was unconventional was the portrayal of politics. Touto, Seito and Hokuto had different Prime Ministers that worked in different ways, and had differing goals and methods of governing, which was portrayed convincingly in this giant sandbox version of Japan.
Another particularly impressive piece of writing is the balance of light-heartedness and serious topics. Despite addressing topics such as war, tragedy and amoral scientists among others, the series never fails to show us humorous topics, such as the opening narration banter between Sento and Banjo, with various in-jokes and meta-commentary. This makes Build easy to watch, but still willing to show the tough choices, especially in later episodes. Contrast this with Ex-Aid, a series which started out promising, but ended up without permadeaths.
Of course, a superhero show wouldn’t be complete without its supervillain, and Evolto remains one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite Kamen Rider villain. Evolto started out as Blood Stalk, an enigmatic chaotic neutral villain who had his own agenda, helping the heroes at times and hindering them at times. As he became Kamen Rider Evol, he started to show his true colors, with the singular goal of consuming the Earth.
This complexity is rarely seen in Rider final villains, especially those in recent years (Gold Drive, Cronus) as the series moved towards introducing late-game villains. Evolto’s role and introduction during the early stage of the story actually helped cement his memorable role and of course, allowed for some character development.
One particular bit that appealed to my science-loving self is the bits of science easter eggs in the show. A lot of Build’s finishers have actual scientific formulas, such as Projectile Motion, Maxwell’s Equations and the Law of Entropy, to name a few. As a science buff, I had a lot of fun playing “spot the formula” and appreciate the touches they put into the show.
Needless to say, Build isn’t without its flaws as well. One major criticism I have with the show is the characterization of Evolto towards the end. During the final few episodes, his motivations pulled a one-eighty and became a one-note villain with the cliched motivation of destroying the world. This characterization is in stark contrast with his original goals and characterization.
Another flaw is the introduction of side characters that lasted for one of two arcs. Though arguably it could be a boon (such as the case of the Hokuto trio), in most cases such as the Hell Bros causes the story to get sidetracked.
Build is one of the few rider series to actually Build a decent plot, a sandbox world and an epic story with whatever materials they had. Build succeeded in transcending the concept of a show for children, and became what, in my opinion, is one of the best Kamen Riders of all time. Do give it a try, and enjoy the adventures of the genius Scientist.