PREVIOUSLY ON EX-AID:
Things seemed especially dire for our heroes last week. Masamune not only forced Emu into a situation where he was forced to defeat Parad, and thus clear his own Bugster infection, but he also stole the Gashats and Drivers from the other Riders. However, Emu had machinations of his own, revealing that he instead absorbed Parad at the last second to prevent him from being lost entirely. Now understanding the terror of death, Parad also understands the value of the lives around him, and resolves to live up to Emu’s expectations by fighting to protect them with his friend (and brother? Host? Their relationship is weird to say the least).
However, when Parad and Emu team up together to trounce Masamune and destroy Chronicle, they’re foiled at the last second by him resetting the game state to a point before Hyper Muteki was introduced. What other effects will this have on Chronicle, and how will the Riders stand up to Masamune’s power without access to Muteki’s invincibility?
Last week’s episode was the cap to an incredibly strong run of episodes in this latter part of Ex-Aid. We had, in succession, the resolution to character development for Taiga, Hiiro and then Parad, as Emu managed to sway them all back to his side. Each of those episodes had one strong A-plot that extended through all the scenes, with very little side development. It’s the end-game now, it’s expected that most of the episodes would be devoted to wrapping up specific arcs as we come closer to the finale.
So this episode provides a bit of a breather with a lot more comedic relief than previous weeks, but also fills space with some jarring sub-plots in an attempt to follow up on the, pardon my French, absolute horse hockey that was the RESET.
Not to mention specific movie-tie in plots taking up even more time along with it.
It’s funny because the summer movie is called “True Ending”. Get it? GET IT?
Even with those complaints, I didn’t dislike this episode, but there’s two main reasons why it was enjoyable, and neither of them fit especially well together. That would be the resolution of Graphite’s development, and the subplot of Kuroto, Emu and Kiriya working to restore Muteki and counter Cronus’ Reset ability.
First, let’s deal with the horse hockey.
Masamune’s reset rolled back the progress that the characters made in the “game” of conflict against his control of Chronicle. This has several different effects that we see in the episode explicitly:
- Nico no longer is infected with Gemdeus
- Graphite’s own infection becomes debilitating again
- The Riders all get their gashats and Gamer Driver systems back
- Kuroto’s 1-up count is back to 94
- Masamune has all the proto-Gashats again
And that’s besides the fact that Hyper Muteki has vanished. But there’s other questions that this brings up as well. If Masamune has the proto-Gashats back, then that would include proto-Bakusou Bike, where Kiriya’s data was stored. Could he use that data to destroy him now? Does he simply not think it’s worth the effort since he thinks himself untouchable regardless? What about Saki’s data? Was it restored with the reset or is it gone for good?
Like always, this show never explains the normal mechanics of the virus or the game itself, so big plot-relevant exceptions like this just feel like Deus Ex Machina plot holes rather than important developments. Especially since, as we’ll see, several of those drawbacks for the heroes are patched by the end of the episode, so it feels even more like filler.
But I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t entertaining filler regardless.
The main emotional impact of this episode comes from dealing with the last Bugster in Chronicle. Now that Parad is firmly on the heroes’ side, he goes with Poppy and Emu to try and convince Graphite to join them and fight against Cronus. He’s the only one who stands a chance now with Muteki gone, after all.
Now, Graphite – like Parad – has had a pretty significant fanbase for Ex-Aid, for a character that spent a significant amount of time dead, and hasn’t done a whole lot of importance within the story arcs otherwise. But in addition to having a really hot actor, one thing that endeared him to a lot of fans is the fact that his motivations have stayed very, very consistent. I’ve spent a lot of time breaking down the motivations for all the other characters in the weeks I’ve been doing these recap articles, so let’s give Graphite the same treatment.
I noted in episode 39 that Graphite acted with a bit more humanity than Parad, most likely because he actually has human memories as a result of the lives he’s claimed. The main tension between the heroes and the antagonists in this series generally revolves around how the characters view the value of life, and whether they recognize value in others. The interesting thing that this episode reveals for Graphite’s position on that topic, is that while he’s fundamentally focused on the thrill of battle, he actually values life in his own weird way.
This is illustrated in how he deals with his own comrades, the other Bugsters. Parad only wants to be partners with Emu and now works to live up to Emu’s expectations and ideals as a result. Poppy only ever wanted to play her games with other humans, rather than fight (for people complaining as to why she never transforms to fight with the other Riders, that’s why. She doesn’t like fighting). One of Parad’s mistakes when he was serving as the main antagonist was enforcing his own views of humanity onto the other Bugsters whether they liked it or not. Now he’s made peace with his own connection to humanity. Graphite, despite his battle-lust, does not make the same mistake.
In other words, while his own motivations may be fundamentally selfish and hedonistic, seeking fulfillment through fighting against the humans, he still recognizes the negative impacts that those fights have on others around him, and leaves Poppy and Parad to do as they will. Previously, the heroes and villains have been divided by selfish vs. selfless motivations, but Graphite here blurs that line a bit as a result. Despite his self-centered motivations, he still understands the value of his own life and the others that fight against him, and pursues the greatest challenges as a result, living up to his own warrior’s code of honor.
This doesn’t mean that Graphite is a good person. He’s still fundamentally an antagonist, and there’s no possibility of coexistence here. But it makes his final showdown with Hiiro and Taiga an incredibly emotional send-off.
It also gives him an equally emotional battle against Cronus himself when Masamune shows up to spoil the fun. Good thing Graphite’s now possessing a power strong enough to beat Cronus, even if he himself is dying from the lethal blows Hiiro and Taiga landed.
I joked about everyone undoing PAUSE by kicking Cronus in the junk, but restarting time by throwing a giant flaming spirit dragon through his midsection is even more satisfying.
In the end, Graphite and the stolen power of the Gemdeus virus overwhelms Cronus, and he willingly steps in front of Nico’s finishing blow to be defeated legitimately as part of Chronicle. Now with all the Gashatrophies gathered in one way or another (Kuroto provided the two for Parad earlier in the episode, and – wait a second
HEY WAIT A SECOND
HOW THE HECK DO THEY STILL HAVE LOVELICA’S GASHATROPHY IF EVERYTHING WAS RESET LAST EPISODE??
That’s a pretty glaring plot-hole that I literally just realized while typing out this recap article, but I guess it makes as much sense as anything else that happened in the arbitrary wake of the Reset.
But it does make for a nice segue to discuss the second plot that runs alongside the attempts to defeat Graphite in this episode. You see, while Hiiro, Taiga and Nico have decided to end Graphite, Kuroto and Emu get to work back at the CR. They aim not only to re-create Muteki, but also to try and engineer a way to prevent Cronus’ newly-discovered Reset function from working.
Amagasaki Ren, eat your heart out.
The scenes with both of them, and Kiriya, pulling an all-nighter in the clinic to engineer a new
cheat power for Emu to use had me literally crying from laughing, I’m not exaggerating in the slightest.
Kuroto’s godly talents are apparently so transcendental that they kill him from overuse literally twelve times over the course of the night before they produce the result.
But we get to see that result at the end of the episode, just as Masamune tries to reset time in order to prevent them from summoning the final boss of Chronicle.
That’s right. Save states. This entire series has just been an ever-escalating war of flagrantly cheating between the heroes and antagonists. This isn’t video games, it’s Calvinball. I don’t mean that necessarily as a negative either, as I’ve said numerous times, the characters are likeable enough that all of these events are still a lot of fun to watch even if almost nothing about the mechanics is explained or used consistently. It’s just especially more obvious in this episode, and makes it seem like the movie tie-in subplot and the RESET only happened to give the script breathing space enough to deal with Graphite’s send-off properly.
There’s plenty of other details to enjoy in this episode along with Graphite’s resolution, we get to see the outcome of Parad’s change of heart in how he fights with Emu earlier on.
Interestingly, Emu actually has to save him, when he was about to unnecessarily sacrifice himself against an attack by Masamune. Emu may have sacrificed a lot of his own happiness and well-being to help others, but he was never suicidal (that’s Taiga’s shtick).
It’s still funny to see the two of them fighting over who gets to play the martyr though.
In addition to the excellent fights, there’s also Kuroto and Kiriya’s comedy routines. Both of their development arcs are more-or-less finished (that may be disputed with the previews for the next episode), but they’re still fun to have around to play off of the other characters, and each other. Some people complain that they’ve been reduced to overexaggerated aspects of their characterizations, and they’re right, but that’s the function they serve in the cast now. All I ask is that they serve that function well (and they do).
This article is much, much shorter than my previous ones, mainly because much of what happens in this episode is either movie tie-in, or goofy slapstick comedy, and I’m not going to recap that for you guys. Watch it for yourself. …And, truth be told, I’m slightly annoyed that my long-running bet of Graphite mutating into the final boss was proven wrong. Rats.
It may not be as significant as some other episodes in this back half of the series, but it’s a nice change of pace before we get into the final boss fight with Gemdeus’ arrival.