Despite a few funny/interesting scenes, our main cast recedes to the background for this story. (For the record: Shouichi being inappropriately horny; Houjou being all "Wow, it must be so great to be a secret hero who can leverage their secret heroism to get a job they should never have been offered” to Nijou; Spooky Kid haunting Lady Scientist; and Lady Cop yelling at Junior Cop for dwelling on the whole Didn't Agito Almost Murder G3 A Few Weeks Ago thing.)

Nope, they're in this story, but it's definitely not about them. It's about Ryou. It's also about taking some of the dark, fatalist tone from Kuuga, but applying it in a way that best serves the story of Agito.

Ryou's story so far is someone who's been cursed by darkness, turned into a monster, and found himself abandoned by the people he most depends on. His coach ghosts him. His teammates belittle him. His girlfriend tells him that it's his fault she's in danger. He's isolated and afraid, but he harnesses that fear, that self-loathing, to protect the people he cares for.

I was surprised how into Ryou's story I was, because it has that suffocating despair that Kuuga tried to do often, but I thought it worked way better here. Some of it's the catharsis of a henshin and a monster explosion, but I think a lot of it is how Ryou's story is allowed to exist in parallel to the Agito/G3 part of the story. Ryou's story gets to be about him, his losses, his determination, his sacrifice. It doesn't have to have Shouichi's likely enthusiasm or tactlessness. It doesn't have to spill over into other scenes, leaving room for jokes and counterbalanced high-energy pure action scenes. It gets to live as this thread of a guy losing everything, but trying to persevere.

Plus, it feeds into the larger story of special powers being a curse, but maybe also useful? That's a very on-brand Kamen Rider theme, and it's one that, again, I feel like Agito is expressing better than Kuuga. Kuuga had this tendency, for me, to kind-of miss the forest for the trees, spending a ton of time on the minutiae of How To Police and forgetting to address the emotional core of its characters, its stories. This one felt like an important counterpoint to Shouichi's story, someone who's isolated by his powers rather than embraced, someone who's haunted by his losses rather than allowed to forget them. It's anchored by heartfelt performances and subdued camerawork, and buoyed by Big Hero Shots and some awesomely violent action. (Very Amazons!) More than G3, I feel like Ryou is the right secondary Rider for Shouichi.