This time on Kamen Rider Blade: A new status quo, as Genius Barb moves into Team Blade's house! A new monster, as Vine Monster attacks the Observatory for some reason! And a new Rider, as Kamen Rider Heartbreaker kicks ass and breaks Kenzaki's heart!

Wow! Good episode, man!

It's all pretty much character driven, which wins me right over. I mean, it's... it's like character-driven plot-oriented storytelling, if that makes any sense. It's not about the characters per se, it's about how they're processing and responding to the plot.

Like, prime example, that early scene with Kenzaki and Genius Barb. It's them reacting to Garren attacking ("attacking") and kidnapping ("kidnapping") the CHAIRMAN of the BOARD. It's not specifically about either of them, but it's a huge scene for displaying what Kenzaki's dealing with, and how he processes the betrayal.

Namely, uh, not great! He makes it all about him, how this betrayal is a personal attack by Tachibana. He's sitting in the wreckage of BOARD, next to an injured woman, and he's vocalizing his lack of empathy, his selfishness. He telescopes out Tachibana's turn into an overall sense of uselessness, of failure. He wonders if anything he's ever done has mattered, or if everything was just a prelude to a fall.

And I love that scene. It's weak, it's unheroic, it's callous. (I mean, I'm not sure Genius Barb loves the fact that the sole remaining Kamen Rider from their group is painting them all with Tachibana's brush, or suggesting that they've accomplished nothing of value.) But it's real, it's earned. He cares for people so easily, and he thinks that makes him a target. That Tachibana had his number all along, and that BOARD's probably been laughing at him all this time.

Even before he can't stop suggesting that he's a joke to people, you can see it all play out on his face. It's a really great part of the scene, where you can see Kenzaki move from disbelief, to rage, to embarrassment, to finally settling on self-deprecation and overwrought miserablism. It's that sense of humor coming out again, where he'll make a joke about himself to keep from succumbing to his worst impulses.

It's a whole episode that plays with that idea, that he has to force himself to be something else in order to survive. His instinct is to make himself the victim, but he has to force himself to move beyond that and be of worth to others. It's a sad version of heroism. It's not a deep connection to humanity, or a goal of protecting smiles. It's self-sacrifice as a road to redemption, where every new fight is a chance to atone for the time he didn't (or couldn't) fight. It's him forcing himself to look outside of his own trauma, working to be a better person. It's not easy for Kenzaki to stop wallowing in his own bruised feelings, but he knows it's what he has to do.

I really love that, how much the show is saying that it's hard for Kenzaki to be a Kamen Rider. Not in the usual ways. Not that he'll get injured, or that he'll die. But that he's failed, and he's torn between feeling hurt forever and trying to heal.

Just a super solid episode for Kenzaki. All of the supporting cast was great in bringing things out of him. Kotaro had a great scene where he let Kenzaki know that it's better to be too trusting than untrustworthy. Genius Barb 100% called him on his This Is Something That Only Happened To Me bullshit, and refused to let him mope while people were in danger. And, y'know, I'm into them all living at Kotaro's house! I like that setup a lot more than BOARD's offices. I like them feeling scrappy, getting to the truth about what BOARD was up to in a very Scooby-Doo way. That core group of Kotaro and Kenzaki and Genius Barb, they got a real great dynamic.

I think that's everything! Solid epi--

Oh, right. Right!

Hey, Hajime's the new Kamen Rider! I felt like it was coming, but I didn't think it'd be this fast. Thought it would be in a few more episodes. Nope! Amane's in danger, so he heads up to the Observatory to save her.

First, I love the design for Kamen Rider Heartbreaker. The mask is gorgeous. I love how the two antennae swoop back, all jagged and sharp. I love the heart as the visor. The gold detail on the legs is eye-catching. Just, like, the whole thing. Into the whole design for Heartbreaker.

Sort-of... sort-of less into Hajime as a character? He's a Mystery, having shown up Mysteriously just after Haruka's husband died. He doesn't identify himself to Blade, he doesn't seem to know what a Kamen Rider is, he speaks Undead, and he declares himself to be an enemy of everyone. He's a lot, is what I'm getting at.

He's more-or-less how I felt about the premiere, but as a character. There's just too much going on with him for me to emotionally find any purchase. In an episode that's (rightfully!) spending so much time sketching in Kenzaki and providing fun interplay with Kotaro and Genius Barb, I got not a lot in me for Hajime. I'm sure he'll be a cool character! Just, y'know, not this week.

Otherwise, yeah, great second installment. Really got me on its side.

Next time on Kamen Rider Blade: Therapy! Reindeer monsters! Gritted teeth! And Garren versus Blade for probably the last time ever!