The monster stuff this story, whatever. The final fight between Bird Unknown and Red Agito was cool, because a monster got bisected and exploded, but the rest of it felt perfunctory and rushed. There's a vague handwave towards the victims being related, but no one involved really cracks a case or anything. Agito fights it, loses, fights it again, wins. The police are nowhere on this one, arriving to crime scenes and shrugging their shoulders. It's a little understandable, what with the G3 plotline (more on that in a minute), but with a superhero who doesn't know how to investigate and an investigative unit who can't fight, it leaves the monster-fighting part a little lackluster this time out.

And, honestly, while it's worth calling out, it doesn't sink this story or anything. There's a few things to fill the time, to varying levels of success.

First, all of the G3/Houjou drama, which, you guys. You guys. It's so good! It makes sense that the brass would be like, "This one dude does get his ass kicked pretty much regular, was he the right choice to save Japan?" And, you know, maybe he wasn't! He's kind of a doofy, clumsy failure! It doesn't surprise me that they'd give the nod to Houjou, at least as a trial. Nijou has not exactly made a great case, through actions or speech, to say why he's the one to pilot G3. (The subs keep referring to him as "G3's equipper", and, Jesus. Equipper? Pilot. He's piloting G3.) And Houjou just slam dunks Nijou afterward, with the most shit-eating grin and condescending condolences, all "Gosh, what a shame. But you'll probably be good at something else someday, buddy!" He's perfect, Houjou. Perfect.

Less perfect are all of the many, many mysteries this two-parter juggles. We've got the two-years-ago boat accident, Mana's dad's death (ALL DADS ARE DEAD), the possibility of superpowers, Spooky Child/Teenager/Man, and Ryou's problematic hands (moisturizer and a humidifier, works a treat, you do not need the help of a demon child). That is a lot for a story that is not interested in solving really anything. One of those, the boat one maybe, and you've got something where it feels like there's some progress. All of those, and it feels like I'm watching the superhero TV show version of someone Just Making Conversation. Like, obviously, all of this stuff will become very relevant at a point (or several points) in the future, but right now it's just a lot. It is too much. Nothing gets to breathe, and there's this cloud of uncertainty over everything. It's... it's not a great way to start to foreground some of these plots.

But, for me, it was the Mana plot that was pretty spectacular. It had a nice emotional arc, as she learns about Shouichi's "involvement" in her dad's death, feels hurt and confused, but chooses to believe in her friend. More than the solid, relatable emotions at the core, it does a great job working on the Power Is A Blessing And A Curse theme, showing how Mana's abilities are both hurtful, causing her to question Shouichi and making her witness her father's death, but also how those abilities allow her a chance to see her father's dying gift to her, and a chance to get closure. (That said, the high point for me was her yelling at Nijou to spend a little less time hanging out with her uncle and a little more time solving crimes like when college professors get murdered okay maybe how about that Nijou.) It's a plotline that shows the improvement of Agito over Kuuga, to me, in the ways Mana gets to feel her feelings, work through them, and make a decision to trust someone. She gets to be angry, but not in a way that immediately ignores her history and friendship with Shouichi. She's allowed to process things, to allow her to be the star of her story. Like the Ryou story from last time, it benefits from not having another character give a speech or make a move that solves the problem. She's never portrayed as being unreasonable, despite the viewer probably not thinking that Shouichi is a secret murderer. (No spoilers! Even spoiler text! I see the non-spoilered part when I get notification emails! Thanks!) It's... it's like a balance, allowing the characters to feel normal emotions, to make the consequences of where the story's going feel real, but always keeping an eye on the fact that it should be in service of telling a better sci-fi superhero story. It's tough, to see how much you can bend these relationships for a story, but Agito's got a handle on it so far.

oh and also ryou is called gills now and he's about to attack spooky man holy shit this is going to be nutsssssss