Do I even need to say something about this moment in GARO Makai no Hana 15???
Thanks for the permission, I will certainly credit you back!
Kamen Rider Gaim – Episode 36 Review
I’m going to open this review with three opinions that are likely to be unpopular:
- Kouta’s hope for Mitsuzane is true heroism.
- Mitsuzane is not as petty as he once seemed.
- Takatora is right to blame himself.
These all come with huge caveats, of course.
Eyes wide open
After complaining last week that Kouta’s role had become too passive, it was great to see him step into some real heroism this week. And I don’t mean his fight with Redue (which was admittedly spectacular, and served to highlight Kouta’s continued transformation into an Overlord by having him control the Helheim flora that Redue summoned).
I mean his words.
Unlike a lot of this series’ followers, I’ve never felt bad when the show goes out of its way to highlight the pitfalls of Kouta’s naivety. We’re beginning to see that Kouta can continue to be an idealist – to maintain his hope – while also not being a clueless action-series trope.
Kouta doesn’t forgive Mitsuzane or make excuses for him; his assertion that Mitsuzane lied in order to protect his friendships is absolutely correct. After all, Mitsuzane perceives the truth “as a weapon.” Takatora carried the burden of the sins he must commit; Kouta carries the burden of the sins he has already committed. He understands the weight of a secret, and understands how Mitsuzane must feel entangled in the web of lies he’s woven.
Kouta isn’t closing his eyes to the truth. This is eyes-wide-open idealism, ready to accept that Micchy may not be salvageable from the husk of Mitsuzane, but ready to hope for it all the same. After facing off against so many true villains over the course of this war, I’m ready to put my faith in Kouta overcoming his hesitation and doing what must be done – whatever that may entail.
Better a liar than a fool
There’s been an alarming amount of discussion of “friendzoning” being Mitsuzane’s primary motivation. While I can see how people might have thought this maybe ten episodes ago, the fact that Mitsuzane has laid his heart bare over the past two episodes makes it a little less excusable.
It strikes me that Mai is an almost-inconsequential motivator of Mitsuzane’s current actions. Of course he wants her, wants to own her, wants to protect her; this has less to do with Mai herself and more to do with Mitsuzane’s desire to regain control of a situation that is becoming wildly unstable. And, much like his disdain for Kouta, has a lot to do with his inability to let go of feelings that have outlived their usefulness or relevance. Mitsuzane is severely suffering under the duress of his current circumstances – circumstances which he is, frankly, only partially responsible for.
Most crucially, Mitsuzane has grown into exactly the man that Takatora raised him to be. He is the embodiment of the collective ideology of Yggdrasil, be it the surface goal of survival at any cost or the grotesque, hidden desire for power at any cost. He even says it clearly:
"What I’m doing is essentially reviving Yggdrasil’s Project Ark. But this time, I can save half of humanity. Shouldn’t you be proud of me?"
Of course, he conveniently fails to mention that the remnants of humanity will live on as Redue’s playthings. And of course, the protection of the human race is not really Mitsuzane’s concern. As I’ve stated before, Mitsuzane is simply being pragmatic; after all, how do you fight against a force like the Overlords?
Redue really comes into her own this week, entering the fray herself – once to protect Mitsuzane, and again to … protect Mitsuzane. But it’s not out of compassion, nor does she appear to have any grand plan like Sagara does for our titular hero. She simply wants to watch him collapse under his own power. “What more would I want from a toy?”
Redue’s past is littered with broken playthings; she shares the horrific story of how her parents and siblings were the first to die at her hands, eliciting the only horrified look Mitsuzane’s ever given the inter-dimensional conquerer. She then assures him that once he can break his own toy – his brother – then he will finally be on her level. She knows exactly how to play Mitsuzane.
A shadow cast by a cage
“You are my shadow. You are every mistake I have ever made.”
Takatora’s redemption arc has always been problematic for me. That isn’t to say that I don’t love Takatora – I do, so much – but he had thus far failed to adequately take responsibility for his past actions.
We can rationalize his former self by remembering that he was carrying an unfathomable burden; to sacrifice six billion people to save one billion. But rationalization is not justification, and this episode sees Takatora take responsibility for his darkness and for the monster that it created.
It is Takatora that forced Mitsuzane to live a double life, making deception part of his routine. It is Takatora that approved the project to use civilian teenagers as guinea pigs, accidentally involving Mitsuzane and his friends in the process. It is Takatora that then brought Mitsuzane into the fold of Yggdrasil, making him part of a project to eradicate most of humanity. It is Takatora that introduced Mitsuzane to Ryouma and his co-conspirators.
In the eternal words of Lisa Simpson, “You can’t create a monster, and then whine when he stomps on a few buildings!” When Takatora laments that Mitsuzane is a shadow who has inherited only his darkest traits, it’s an acknowledgement of not only his own wrongdoing but also his failure as a brother – and a father – to Mitsuzane. Takatora is probably right to say that if he’d had a brother like Kouta, Mitsuzane’s descent would have never occurred.
Takatora tries to take responsibility for the monster he created, but his hesitation costs him his life. I’m relieved that we don’t see Takatora murder his deluded baby brother – which would have undone his entire redemption arc – but seeing him pay such a heavy price for his love is almost too much to bear.
A reminder to Kouta of what can happen when you try to avoid making difficult sacrifices.
* * *
- This is, in my opinion, the best episode of Gaim so far.
- I know that it’s not a sure thing that Takatora is dead. In Kamen Rider, it’s often safe to assume that if there’s any vagueness about it, they’re definitely alive. But Takatora has already cheated death once, and I’m not sure what the point of bringing back Takatora at this point would be. “Mitsuzane, I am here to stop you. But like, for real this time.”
- If Takatora is dead, it would mean that the opening scene in episode 1 is completely allegorical, which would be a disappointment.
- Kaito has a new jacket. It is like his old jacket, but it is different.
- The wound that Redue gave Kaito looks really bad – similar to the same disease that plagued Zawame around episode 13. Theoretically, if Kouta becomes an Overlord, he should be able to reverse its effects …?
- Speaking of which, what happened to everyone with that illness? If they weren’t dead before, I would guess that they were left to die when the chaos in Zawame began.
- Seriously though, it felt like Kaito was going on a farewell tour. I am not ready for this.
- If you told me two months ago that I’d write a post that both defends Mitsuzane and lambasts Takatora, I’d say you were crazy.
- Next week on Kamen Rider Gaim: Baron’s Summer Sportsball Smackdown! (Seriously? It’s hard to believe these promo episodes aren’t intentionally being placed at the most inopportune moments.)
I’m seriously going to translate this into Spanish later… It’s so good and accurate that it hurts. D:
Hahahahahaha I’m enjoying my crappy genderbent Haruto Souma cosplay…
Watch the video and you’ll understand why! XD
this worthless cat!!!! cant even like kill an upside down bug or whatever!!!!
I understand your frustration… This is my cat “hunting” a lizard…
The lizard escaped. I think my cat is still searching for it under the sofa. D:
Saejima Raiga IS the sweetest makai knight. XD