This time on Kamen Rider Blade: It’s the first episode! We meet our gigantic cast, Tachibana lets loose a biblical plague on BOARD, and Kenzaki fights Another Agito. (???)

Sort-of a rough first episode, man. Not… probably not going to be my favorite premiere ever!

Starting the series with the title character already a Rider, it’s maybe not my favorite framework for a show. It feels like you’ve missed out on the easy exposition of someone figuring out their name, their powers, the enemies, the stakes, and now you’ve got to do all that with a much higher degree of difficulty. Like, the audience still needs all of that information, right? So it needs to be brought out from a supporting cast member, or dropped in via flashbacks, or exposited from some separate group, or or or. It’s not like you can’t do it that way, it’s just so much more difficult. It’s easy to spend so much time looking backwards, filling in blanks, that you don’t leave yourself a lot of room to tell the current story of the show.

(For example, I think Wizard handled it fine, while Agito made it such a big dumb mystery that it smothered some of the better elements of the show. Build… sort-of split the difference?)

Jumping into a series with Kenzaki as Blade and Tachibana as Garren, it’s disorienting. Within a few minutes, though, you get all of the key info: they’re Riders, they work for BOARD, they’re hunting Undead. Tachibana has been at this a little longer than Kenzaki. Tachibana is not in great shape, and Kenzaki maybe doesn’t take this all as seriously as he should. Also, cards.

It’s all… I don’t know, it’s just information, and comes at us so so fast. There’s all these people, and I’m given little flashes of what their deal is, but… I don’t know, it wasn’t connecting? It was like I’d started at Episode 20 and there was all this weight to these scenes, but it was lost on me. With a first episode, I’m at a distance. I don’t know or care about any of these people yet. Starting in media res, starting with character relationships established, starting with a main character partly down their path, it’s hard for me to invest in these people, let alone feel anything when stuff starts to go sideways.

Which, man, that was where this episode kind-of lost me. I barely have a handle on what’s going on or why, and then Tachibana takes out BOARD. It’s a betrayal by a character I don’t know, which emotionally wounds a character I’m not that invested in. I don’t… why would you do this at the end of the first episode? Why assume that it’s going to mean anything to the audience? You’re blowing up a premise that you just set up, and even then it’s not nearly the most interesting premise in the show! Why make that the end of your first episode?

And, yeah, man, not nearly the most interesting thing in this show so far! That goes to Kotaro, who is the bright spot for me in the first episode.

I love his energy, I love his smarts, I love how he gets the best scene in the episode out of the title character. That’s a supporting cast all-star, if they’ve got that move available. It’s a fun way to potentially fill in Kenzaki’s backstory, to have him interviewed by someone in the cast to get at all of those little details and plot points. Moreover, I’m real into it if we get Kenzaki’s feelings on what happened since he became Kamen Rider Blade. I’d hope that would be where the series would go with it, but, between BOARD getting taken out/mildly sidelined (hard to tell!) and all of the stuff that gets introduced about Kotaro’s family, I don’t feel that confident in making predictions about where this story is going.

Which, god, so many characters in this thing! I don’t know that we needed to meet Kotaro’s sister and niece, or start learning about their Mysterious Tenant, in the first goddamn episode, but they’re here, and they’re alright? It’s a cute scene, and it’s nice to learn more about the only character I really connected with so far. (Wow, Kamen Rider Die gets immediately invested in the dude who wants to write about Kamen Riders. SHOCK SURPRISE.) But, seriously, it’s too much.

It’s a real Too Much premiere, if I’m being honest. They backburner the most important part, giving me a reason to care about Kamen Rider Blade, in favor of a series of twists that are so airless and irrelevant that they might as well not have happened, and character introductions that might as well have been a Previously On Kamen Rider Blade. It’s ten pounds of story in a five-pound premiere.

And, look. I like Kenzaki! He’s got some fun comedic timing. I like his underdog take on being a masked hero. I like that he’s not got it all together. I like how he gives jokey, bullshit, self-deprecating answers because he’s haunted by loss and rage. (That dream sequence! Yes!) I like his time with Kotaro especially, and if that’d been the premiere, I’d’ve been so much happier. But this thing’s nearly all plot, all premise. There’s so little space for spark, and no space for themes. I don’t know what I’m supposed to care about, what I’m supposed to want to happen. I want to care about these people, and this show seems to want me to care about their world. Just… not what I want out of a first episode.

Next time on Kamen Rider Blade: Slaps! Anguished men! Children in danger! And I guess a new Rider maybe!