This time on Kamen Rider Blade: Chalice gets a part-time job! Tachibana has a hilariously dim view of cowardice! And Mutsuki finds a reason to fight that's not just It Is Fun To Murder!

Ah, the But Why Heroism episode. A staple of the franchise, and the place where a creator can really put a stamp on what their Kamen Rider series is saying about heroic fiction. We get to see Mutsuki evolve from a callow teen into Kamen Rider Leangle, and... am I supposed to feel as nervous about this as I do?

His journey is fairly straight-forward. He's been training with Tachibana, mastering the skills necessary to fight as a Kamen Rider. He's even put some clues together regarding one of the current Undead, and tags along with Tachibana to take it down. The fight's going well, until Leangle's powers cut out again, leaving him to be dragged down into the monster's lair.

Deep underground, it activates Mutsuki's most primal fear. He's back in that locker, crying to get out, left all alone. When Garren shows up, Mutsuki bolts. His fear was greater than his desire to fight. Fighting is something he likes doing, likes how it makes him feel. But if the cost of it is that kind of terror, no thanks.

Mutsuki wants to be a hero because it feels good to be a hero. He sees Kamen Riders defeating monsters, being powerful men, and thinks that what heroism is. But being a hero isn't about defeating monsters, it's about putting yourself in the path of a monster so someone else can be safe. It's about being subjected to terror so someone else isn't scared. It's about taking that weight on so someone else can escape.

The problem is that Mutsuki doesn't know why someone would do that. Or, he does know, intellectually, but he doesn't feel that emotionally. He longs for the easy motivation of I Couldn't Save My Parents So Now I Fight or I Couldn't Save My Girlfriend So Now I Fight. He's just a kid from a nice home who's below average at basketball. Why would he fight?

We get a quick peek into Kenzaki's motivation, and I really love it. We know that he's driven to help others because of his inability to save his parents, but why be a Kamen Rider? His answer is that it's a job that needed doing, and he could do it, so he does it. Nothing high-minded, nothing about fate or destiny or even heroism. It's just, he can be Blade, so he should be Blade.

The solution the show has for Mutsuki is, on the surface, a good one. It's Mutsuki seeing what it means to others when Kamen Riders save them, and letting that smother his fear. He sees the tangible results of heroism (not just the dead bodies in a monster's lair) and he's all in, ready to fight. He even gets to play the other side of the What's Your Name, Heroic Stranger thing he did with Kenzaki on his first appearance. It's all about protecting people for Mutsuki, serving the greater good.

But, is it?

Mutsuki may not need the credit, but he sure as shit needs the accolades. The smiles and gratitude shouldn't matter that much to him, shouldn't be required, but it definitely seems like they were. How would he have felt if the survivors had been less grateful, more scared? Would this epiphany had happened, or would he still feel like it wasn't worth it?

Like, I want to take Mutsuki at his word. It's just, he didn't really overcome anything to claim the title of Kamen Rider, you know? He went to save his mentor, everyone told him he was a special boy, and then he went to save Blade. There's a level of narcissism there, where he felt motivated when he thought everyone needed him, or looked up to him, and that feels weirdly problematic to me. Be real interested to see where the show goes with that, if at all.

(The best part of the episode was Mutsuki running to tell Tachibana that he'd found a reason to fight and Tachibana just cuts him off with Don't Care Blade Is Getting Killed Go Help Him. Time and a place for your personal growth, Mutsuki!)

That's the fairly complete story in this episode. The rest is little bits of business for Kotaro, and some set-up for a Hajime story.

For Kotaro, it's just that he's still moping after being dumped/nearly killed by Meet-Cute. (More the former than the latter, judging by his mood.) There's not much to it, but it does become the focus of a really fun Team Blade dinner, where everyone's being totally weird. Hirose declares that Kotaro's only redeeming quality is his cooking. Tachibana eats like a man who's being timed. Kotaro drinks tea instead of milk, which, CODE RED. It's a neat little domestic scene, which I'm a fan of.

Hajime's story is so unbelievably open-ended that I almost don't feel like talking about it (he's got a new job assisting Amane's Dad's old assistant, Meet-Cute wants him to join her in murdering humans, new Undead mystery man Business Bird says he made a promise with Chalice 10,000 years ago), but I will anyway because OZAWA.

Hey, it's my second-favorite character from Agito! Last series gave me Houjou, this one gives me Ozawa. God bless this franchise, knowing what they've got in their talent. She's fantastic in this, naturally. Photozawa has taken up where her mysteriously-disappeared mentor left off, working as a photographer. She needs an assistant, so Haruka recommends Hajime. (I would dearly love to know when and how an Undead learned to appreciate the artistry of photographs, but I'm not holding my breath for answers. It's not Hajime's style to give them!) When she sees that Hajime has a photo of Amane's family that wasn't among the dad's recovered items, and she sees Meet-Cute have a weird interest in him, the gears start turning. (There's a hilarious scene of her investigating an old negative that is only missing her saying enhance to be the most Not How Computers Work television cliche.)

It's not a big part or anything, and maybe I'm bringing in Agito baggage, but I totally buy Photozawa as someone who could make these deductions, be this committed to the truth. I don't care what her profession is, I buy that woman as superhumanly competent. She's the best non-Houjou character from Agito, after all!

Next time on Kamen Rider Blade: Business Bird and Meet-Cute are working together! Chalice is in a card, and that means Hajime has some explaining to do! And Photozawa returns because I demanded it! That's how time works!