This time on Kamen Rider Blade: Kenzaki makes two friends! Chalice beats the Moth Monster, then beats up Blade! CHAIRMAN of the BOARD goes up in flames! And Tachibana eats a puzzle piece as a metaphor for humanity's fear of death!

Normally, how you'd break a story on Kamen Rider is to have some new information be learned by the cast, then spend some time having them react to that information. Like, Mari and Keitaro learn that Takumi is an Orphnoch at the beginning of an episode, and then we spend the rest of an episode seeing them try to process it. Cause and effect. There's plot, and then there's how plot changes and grows our characters. Storytelling 101.

It's not that Blade doesn't do that, it's that they do too much of it, and it creates whole episodes devoted to each half. We don't get an episode where new information is learned and the cast reacts to it, we get an entire episode where the cast learns four different things, and then an entire episode where the cast reacts to all of that information. It creates a lopsided viewing experience for me, where odd-numbered episodes are a rush of context-less data, and the even-numbered episodes are deep, compelling drama. It's... I don't know if it's a great way to tell a season-long story?

This episode works out great, though. Really enjoyed what it was doing for each character.

Tachibana came out the best, mostly because I wasn't really able to get a read on him before. Here, he comes across as a man who is so terrified of his story ending that he's willing to destroy everything he's worked for in order to avoid it. There's a bizarre vulnerability that I really connected with, a view of a man who can't comprehend his own mortality.

That whole thing with the puzzle piece... I mean, it's a hilarious line in a vacuum, but it's a great scene in context. It's someone who can't fathom something ending, so he'd rather render it useless and look like a fool. It takes his exposition from last episode, his confession to Kenzaki, and it makes it specific, personal. It's not just a hero trying to survive, it's Tachibana being terrified of his impending demise. It makes his tragedy both aggravating and lamentable, someone who can't see past their own fears.

Which is a great segue into talking about Kenzaki, who shows some really fun shades in this story. He starts off just awful, but in a very captivating way. He's like Tachibana, trying to refocus every other problem as secondary to his pain, his fear, what he's going through. I like how the show lets him be selfish for a minute, lets him be unlikeable. (I mean, Hirose is really going through something, and Kenzaki is just oblivious to it!) It's some electrifying acting when he gets indignant at Hirose for calling him out for letting his belief in Tachibana overshadow the facts of the situation. He's a guy that maybe doesn't think a lot of himself, but he's got a temper and an ego that's not going to let him get run down by someone else. It's a nice way the show keeps his self-doubt from becoming self-pity, you know? He can be a bundle of anger and doubt, and it's going to bubble up in weird, fascinating ways. (He don't get along with Hajime at all!)

But then there's this beautiful, beautiful scene Kenzaki has with Kotaro, in the Feelings Field. It's Kenzaki sitting outside, trying to get his head around the fact that he could die being Kamen Rider Blade. He tries to psych himself up, paint it as Heroic and Cool. A heroic demise, fighting to save the world from the Undead! But Kotaro is aghast. Kenzaki is his friend, and he wants him to stick around. Plus, who the hell knows if Tachibana's even honest, or right? And there's this excitement on Kenzaki's face, a smile as big and broad as anything. Kotaro cares about him. Kotaro's his friend.

It's so pure, that scene. It's not just a Rider that desperately needs the support of the people in his life, but one who understands how necessary and special that support is. It's not someone who needs to be convinced that they're a good person, or that they need people in their life. It's someone who knows what they want, and appreciates it when it's given to them. It's earnest, and adorable, and it made me love this show even more.

Even the exposition was a huge step up from last time. The Hirose stuff, with her first meeting with CHAIRMAN of the BOARD, and the stuff with her dad, it was exactly the kind of exposition I want to see. It's not just filling in backstory, it's giving Hirose stuff to process. She's put all of her trust in these heroic men, and now she doesn't know if they're worth her faith. CHAIRMAN talks a good game about trying to save the world, but when she considers it alongside her dad's definitely not troubling desire to save his wife at all costs, and Tachibana's desperate struggle to just live more (sorry Gaim), she's beginning to see that a lot of what she viewed as a heroic dedication to humanity's betterment was maybe just reckless men scared of the loss that comes with mortality.

And that, man, maybe my favorite thing about this episode? There's a thematic heft to it, where three full threads of the narrative are dealing with the same ideas, the same consequences. It's an episode about something, exploring a theme. It's about what fear of death drives us to do, how it warps our morality and goals. How we process losing people, but also how we process the idea that our story might end at some point, and what we'd sacrifice to keep that from happening for just a little while longer. I love when a show makes time for that, themes, instead of pouring on more info and monologues and backstory. It moves us from people learning information, to how that information shapes them as characters, how it illuminates merits and flaws.

Also, there's some Rider action!

It's only a little bit, but I liked the brawl at the end. I don't have much of a sense of Blade's fighting style yet, other than Bad At It, but I enjoyed Chalice's strategy of using Blade to suss out Moth Monster's weak point, and then instantly murder it. It's a great look into how unimpressed Chalice is with Blade, how irrelevant he finds him. Is... is there anyone in this show who thinks Kenzaki has what it takes?

Besides me, I mean.

Next time on Kamen Rider Blade: Amane's sick! Chalice is being watched! And Garren is no help to anyone, as per goddamn usual!