Two Geniuses? No Thank You.
The Name of the Game: Not even a day after becoming Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Emu comes into conflict with a fellow Rider (the pompous surgeon Hiiro Kagami) who believes that Emu’s kindheartedness is a weakness both as a doctor and as a Rider.
After the entertaining but rushed “I’m a Kamen Rider,” Kamen Rider Ex-Aid settles into what will most likely be its routine for the next few episodes: a series of character introductions that give Emu a set of rivals/ideological opposites, with the real plot kicking in once the cast is in place. The first of these vignettes is “Two Genuises? No Thank You,” which debuts Kamen Rider Brave, the role playing game-themed hero named…well, Hiiro Kagami. A bit on the nose there, but fitting for the theme. The main point of division between the medical prodigy and our protagonist (as well as the underlying conflict throughout the episode) is something that I didn’t expect the show to tackle so early on: does the patient’s well-being matter when there’s a problem to be fixed?
This moral could easily come off as a double-edged sword, as one side of the audience could react with, “Of course, it matters!” while the other side with, “No, it doesn’t!” It’s a very touchy subject in actual medical practice in real life, and it could have easily turned into a one-sided argument either way. The show plays with this by showing the characters acting on their different morals and both finding some measure of success. It never explicitly states that one side is right and the other is wrong; it shows the characters following their beliefs and not coming to a concrete conclusion either way. It sets up the rivalry between Emu and Hiiro extremely well, and I’m excited to see what direction the show takes this conflict in.
The issue from the first episode involving a lack of reason for the world to be the way it is isn’t fully resolved, but we do get a few more hints: the producer of the various Gasshat transformation devices and the Gamer Driver seems to have a deal going on with the Ministry of Health, and receives a hefty sum for producing the Gasshats and the Drivers (including from a mysterious third party, if not more). It’s not a total explanation, but I like that they didn’t just leave it hanging for later. We also get some hints to the overarching plot and character dynamics; the puzzle-pants wearing “dark” Ex-Aid pallet swap (no, seriously, that’s what they call it) shows up surprisingly early, giving a glimpse of a strong enemy yet to come.
As well, the story seems to be more tightly paced this time around, offering fairly equal time in-and-out of costume for the Riders. This allows for some really well-paced and occasionally intense sequences between Emu and Hiiro, with the latter giving a very strong performance (plus, the way his eyes bug out when he tells Emu off is both hilarious and unsettling at the same time). This feels like a stronger episode on a character front this time around, but the story is just kind of…there. There’s no real development on the part of the patients, and the monster of the week, while well-designed and a strong parody of RPG baddies, is cookie-cutter at best. Still, if we get good character beats out of this with the story taking precedence after these next few episodes, I’ll be satisfied.
There’s some strong cinematography in this episode, especially when it comes to the combat sequences. You have the prerequisite flipping and CGI spinning that the early stages of the fights seem to be gearing towards, but the Level 2 fights in this episode (along with the Brave transformation, which is gloriously hammy) are fast-paced and pack in a lot of flourishes like Brave’s 8-bit fire and ice strikes. The short-but-sweet brawl against Dark Ex-Aid is actually one of the stand-outs of the episode even though it lasts less than a minute; the rhythmic beat down that he lays down on the heroes makes for an engaging showcase of his strength and agility.
“Two Genuises? No Thank You” offers a strong rival in the form of Hiiro and offers a surprisingly nuanced moral dilemma for the show to explore in the future, along with another fun set of fights and pure visual spectacle. I hope that once the groundwork episodes are done (which, by the looks of things, may not be till episode 5) that we can get some more plot and world building, but a few episodes of character development aren’t unwelcome in the slightest, and I look forward to what the next few episodes bring to the table.
I completely agree with Donovan here as I felt episode 2 was far stronger than the premiere of the programme. The story was tighter, the action still on par plus we got a large addition to the ongoing storyline with the introduction of Hiiro. The only thing I have to disagree with Donovan here is that I found the patient’s story more interesting than the one last week and found it quite compelling, despite its simplicity; sometimes straightforward is the way to go. However I am indeed really glad that we even got a hint of why videogames are used to fight the Bugsters. Having the brief scene with Dan Kuroto and the Ministry of Health minister was all I really wanted out of the first episode to explain why video games were being used to fight an outbreak of a deadly virus. I won’t retroactively like the first episode for this, but I will definitely enjoy the bizarre mix of motifs that the show has more from now on.
Something that is remiss from both of us in the prior review is a look at the music on the show, so I’d love to just briefly touch on it. The theme for this year’s Kamen Rider is a partial departure from what we have had over the past couple years, as rather than going for bombast and triumph, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid’s theme song ‘EXCITE’ by Miura Daichi goes for a cooler route. It is still very triumphant and hype af, but it’s a bit subtler and relaxed about it. I really adore the song, especially with its chiptune flavoring throughout. It does its job well of hyping up the show while also just being a really solid song. As for the rest of the soundtrack, it also heavily uses an 8-bit soundscape and just does its job. As we are very early into the show, there really aren’t any stand-out pieces but I’m sure this opinion will change as the programme goes on; hopefully we will get a soundtrack as strong as Kamen Rider Ghost’s was.
Another thing I want to mention is how strong Kamen Rider Brave’s design is. Now I can understand that people may be put off by the baby blue armor and the anime eyes; they are indeed quite over the top. I not only love those aspects, but I think the black undersuit works really well with the bright and metallic baby blue. The armor itself also just looks really cool: I like the knight motif of the Taddle Quest rider. As for his weapon, it fits quite well with his aesthetic and motif and I like the idea of a sword that uses both fire and ice. The only weak point of the design is the belt, but that can be helped since that aspect wasn’t made with Brave specifically in mind. In short, I really like Brave’s design.
So all in all I really enjoyed episode two of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, definitely more so than the first, and I look forward to further instalments to it!
Next Time: The third Kamen Rider enters with a bang!