PREVIOUSLY ON KAMEN RIDER EX-AID:
Poppy is entranced away from her position at the CR by the new CEO of Genm Corp. who turns out to be a Bugster himself. Meanwhile, with all the Bugsters in place, Parad has completed Kamen Rider Chronicle, has seen Kuroto’s twisted vision brought to reality, and the show itself enters the second half of its story.
I’m sure you’ve all heard it before. “First, do no harm.”
Did you know that’s a relatively recent addition to the Hippocratic Oath? The ancient Greek text translated actually says this:
“I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.”
In a larger context, and even in the modern version that is used today, the Oath is intended to orient a doctor’s concern towards not just conquering symptoms, but the benefit and welfare of a patient. Their focus must be on making someone healthy, and must not use their medical knowledge to knowingly inflict, or to be complicit in the harm of someone in their care.
But what is a doctor to do when their patient self-destructs of their own volition?
What can you do, when the root cause of their illness is the fundamental nature of humanity itself?
Both Emu and Hiiro take their roles as doctors in different ways, as I’ve noted before. Hiiro is very skilled as a doctor, and Emu’s influence has helped to remind him of this ultimate end for his medical skills, even if he doesn’t always show it externally.
Taiga, on the other hand is not a licensed doctor any longer and does not consider himself a member of that profession, even unofficially. But now that he’s working more closely with the CR Riders, his position allows him to tackle issues from a different angle than Hiiro and Emu.
Previously, he was the first to come up with the idea to create a new Gashat to try and counter Dangerous Zombie. Now we see that when Chronicle drops, while Hiiro and Emu are busy trying to treat the dozens of patients, newly-infected thanks to exposure to the Chronicle game cartridge, he’s free to go and confront the new CEO of Genm himself to see what’s going on.
A lot of this episode is exposition, and it goes down close to how I called it from last week. Ride Players get drawn into the game with no knowledge of the real stakes of their fight, are challenged to fight and win against the Bugsters, level up to fight even stronger enemies, and will eventually reach an unknown final boss. The Bugsters introduce an added obstacle for the CR Riders trying to stop the players though. Poppy (now serving as tutorial narrator) tells the players that Brave and Ex-Aid are special enemies that drop rare items, and then sits back and watches as the patients the Riders are sworn to protect attack them instead.
Despite its cheerfully optimistic advertising, Chronicle seems to be engineered with precisely zero chance that any of the Ride Players can actually succeed at moving forward. They’re easily wiped by even the first boss, Salty (albeit a higher-leveled version than previous appearances). Despite Hiiro and Emu’s warnings of the severe consequences of playing, a group of Ride Players eventually is trapped by Parad who then outright murders them.
Ex-Aid has been fairly dark in its run before this point, and not shy about reminding the audience that its stakes involve life and death. But this is the first time that civilians have died on-screen as a consequence of the heroes failing (other than the flashback showing how Hiiro’s girlfriend succumbed to her infection during Zero Day). It only makes sense that a show that involves doctors also deals heavily with mortality as a major theme.
As I said, there’s not a whole lot to dissect in terms of plot developments this week since it’s largely exposition, but we CAN discuss a bit about the motivations of the new main villain, Parad. Or, uh, old main villain I guess. Newly appointed successor to Kuroto? In terms of being the one to finish and release Chronicle and use it to its potential.
In some ways, Parad is actually more off-putting and creepy than Kuroto was, because while Kuroto was driven by intensely murderous envy, it was still a very human emotion. Parad has a completely alien morality and value system, that is simultaneously simpler, but more unpredictable as well.
The motivation he expounds upon in this scene, is that he wishes to create the ultimate game in order to level the playing field against humanity. We saw him get angry at Kuroto earlier in the show when he exploits and kills Bugsters only for his sadistic whims, and now expresses the same anger at humanity in general for that mode of thought that drives video game development.
Whereas Kuroto engineered this massively-multiplayer death game so that he could get off on making everyone else suffer while he rules as a god, Parad just wants to fight. In doing so, he also allows the Bugsters to fight against humanity itself by drawing them into the game to be the mooks and bosses for once, instead of the Bugsters themselves.
It sounds a bit clichéd at first glance, but it actually illustrates a deeper point about the relationship between the Bugsters and humanity at large.
Remember, Parad describes Bugsters as wishing to fight and strive to decide winners and losers though those challenges. That’s also what drives the Ride Players to enter the fight in Chronicle, the promise of a chance to be heroes through the process of rising through these battles against monsters. They want to participate in that as well. As I said last week, they are infected by the virus by simply playing the game, but they become like Bugsters themselves in terms of reorienting their goals to that challenge and conflict when they enter the game as well.
What Parad doesn’t realize though, is that we can flip this argument around to show how the Bugsters become more like humans at the same time.
After all, the Bugsters are all based on video games made by human beings, programmed by human beings, and enjoyed by human beings. The present-day strain of the Bugsters literally came from Emu’s imagination thanks to Kuroto’s mad science experiment in the first place! They aren’t strictly human, but they do reflect aspects of our own humanity in that desire for battle.
No one forces the Ride Players to enter the battle, or the other masses of consumers who pick up Chronicle to play. They do so of their own free will and desire to enter into a conflict, to define their own role as a hero through that fight. If the Bugsters enjoy fighting and the risk associated with it, it’s only because they’re patterned after those desires in human nature first.
As I said back in my rundown of the Agito finale, often what separates heroes from others who misuse their power, is the fact that heroes are fine with a status quo where they are not required to fight. Like Cincinnatus returning to his farm after briefly serving as the supreme ruler of Rome, these heroes understand that while violent conflict may be necessary for heroic narratives, it does not define heroes in their totality, and is not an end to itself.
Emu/M enjoys the challenge of beating villains as a Rider, but is absolutely distraught at the thought of beating up a civilian who has innocent intentions, only seeking to have fun while playing a game. When faced with one Ride Player who refuses to back down, even after Emu hits Maximum form, Emu disengages from the fight, de-transforms and convinces him to come back to the CR clinic for treatment.
Because Emu convinces him to leave the fight, he’s the only one not present in the fight later in the episode where Parad massacres the other Ride Players without breaking a sweat.
Emu wasn’t able to save Kuroto in his official capacity as a doctor, despite his efforts, and it must’ve crushed his heart into tiny bits to see those efforts fail again when he tried to treat the civilians who picked up Chronicle in this episode
Unfortunately for him, things are only going to get worse from here.