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Episode 2

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 2 of
Community score: 4.3

FUUTO PI deploys its full opening sequence in this week's second episode, which actually makes a lot clearer where much of this story is going than the show itself has so far. We know before the episode even begins that Tokime, prospective new member of the Narumi Detective Agency as she's shown to be, probably isn't actually the cannibalistic killer monster at the center of this opening story arc's main mystery. Of course, the way detective fiction, and Kamen Rider W specifically, usually handles these kinds of stories could already prime us for those sorts of subversions, and the swerves are still interesting enough when we get there. But my point remains: A lot of the steps of this story seem predicated on waiting to arrive at those key points in episodes, and FUUTO PI is dragging its feet a bit in getting there.

Formally adding Philip back into the proceedings definitely helps a bit. Shotaro had no shortage of people to interact with in the first episode, but the particular relationship between these 'partners' comes through as especially strong in the beginning and ending of this episode. It's something the franchise has built itself on doing, of course, but getting to see Shotaro's pavement-pounding information gathering techniques contrasted and complimented by Philip's esoteric psychic space search engine gimmick, and how the information each of them finds feeds into those efforts, still sells the necessary dual nature of the protagonists. The clues are only parted out piecemeal over the course of this episode, sure, but even if you don't know the full story of Philip's powers or who the middle-schooler who appears to hand Shotaro a vital new piece of information is, you can follow the trains of thought that connect those to solve the mystery, like so many marker lines on a white-board.

In respect to those kinds of references, it's easy to see why this episode was shown alongside the premiere as a special preview to fans at a convention a little while back. Compared to the easing-in of the first episode, this one cashes in way more of its continuity chips. The old episode-opening recaps are recreated perfectly, complete with Fumihiko Tachiki's narration. There are multiple instances of characters saying their trademark lines, and allusions to characters and events from Kamen Rider W pop up in flashbacks. And they start properly talking about GaiaMemory and the Dopants who use them directly, instead of dancing around the presentation of sound-effect blasting toys and over-the-top tokusatsu monster designs they might have been worried would alienate anime viewers in that premiere. And honestly, I think they are doing pretty well here in explaining those odd elements for those aforementioned newcomers; Chuuta may be all but confirmed as utterly disposable to the actual plot, but he still works as a device for explaining the mechanics at play here. Even the recaps of the original show's plotline are pleasantly brisk, and they use the setup to effectively reiterate Shotaro's standby motivation of not wanting people to resent his beloved town of Fuuto.

It's the other corners of Shotaro's character being covered at this point that could come off more contentious. It's very much an issue of recognizing the intent of the format: Yes, some sort of conflict between Shotaro and Philip to codify their dynamic is necessary for viewers familiar and new. And it's not like Shotaro never got overly attached or even romantically interested in girls from the Case of the Week before, far from it. But the abruptness with which the conflict is introduced in this case, exacerbated by Philip not being properly present in the narrative until this episode, just makes too obvious how artificial the issue is as a plot point. To be blunt, it's actually weirder for familiar fans like yours truly, who saw 49 episodes of Shotaro becoming honest about how much he appreciated his attachment to Philip compared to the latest mysterious dame who just moved into his life. It mostly comes off as yet another to stretch out the process of this plot, making me question just a couple too many times "Could this all have fit into one episode, rather than two?"

To be fair, I'd almost say that illustrated conflict is worth it, as even though it's bumpy as hell getting there, the connection between Shotaro and Philip really does come through as sweet as ever by the end of the episode. It does show off Shotaro's bullheaded, but earnest desire to help all those in his town, compared to Philip's curious need to understand others, including his partner. Indeed, I'll say that it's Philip's character development from the past series that's coming through stronger here, as you can feel his increasingly invested humanity compared to his more robot-like approach from the early days of Kamen Rider W. It's nice, and sells the heart of the series' appeal right before it shows off the more visceral aspects with an absolutely lush animated henshin sequence for the main Rider himself (themselves? I never know with W). Point is, it looks really cool, and the subtitles for the Memories are color-coded just like in the old 2010's fansubs, and they do the funny bit where Akiko has to catch the fainting Philip and they point and say "Now, count up your sins!" and...look, for all my misgivings about some of the pacing and structure leading up to this, I'm not not going to be a sucker for it when it does hit.

I am hoping that the misgivings I have so far with FUUTO PI can be mitigated as the series continues to ramp up. Because the cool parts are still cool, and as labored as FUUTO PI is in getting to some of them, I'm still curious about the foundational mysteries it's utilizing. Tokime's broken Memory (Oh get it, because she also has amnesia?) is a solid setup to pursue across the story, and once she's formally added into the main characters' circle, maybe she can grow an actual personality and we can see how she contributes to the dynamic. The presentation on the toku-emulating stuff has been slick, and I appreciate how the animated aspect lets them get a little wilder with things like the Road Dopant's mechanics in ways that might not have worked as well in a live-action format (The more grown-up focus for the show inciting it to include more 'mature' elements like grisly cannibalism I am…less certain about).The show must be doing something right if it's still got me this impatient to see where it's going next.


FUUTO PI is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.

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