This time on Kamen Rider Blade: Amane recovers, thanks to Hajime! Hirose learns to channel her guilt into saving lives, thanks to Kenzaki! And Tachibana discovers that the only thing he has to fear is Tachibana himself!

Is Tachibana the best character on Blade? I'm sincerely asking. I've really connected with Kenzaki, Kotaro, Hirose, and even taciturn/threatening Hajime, but... Tachibana! He's such an amazing wreck of a man!

With the previous episode's Undead dispatched fairly quickly (Hajime, who has clearly never played a video game, took a few seconds less than forever to realize that the additional appendage was the weakspot/target on the Centipede Monster), the bulk of this episode is given over to character relationships and folks dealing with their baggage.

There's a little bit with Hajime. He's saved Amane, but exposed his secret to Kenzaki. It's a fun little dialogue scene of Kenzaki fundamentally misreading Hajime. This is a dude who's fought him numerous times, and on several occasions disparaged all of humanity. He's out-loud declared Kenzaki to be his enemy, along with literally everyone and everything else in the world! I'm not sure he's suddenly ready to open up about his plans and motivations just because he saved Amane! (He also hilariously left Blade behind on the beach with a crazed Garren, and never looked back. Not your third friend, Kenzaki!)

It's reasonable that Kenzaki would hope that there's more to Hajime/Chalice than he'd thought, but just cold walking up to him and demanding answers... it's a complete misfire, but it's a very in-character move for Kenzaki. He doesn't like or trust this dude, so he's absolutely going to go in with a hot-tempered Bad Cop approach. (Well, to be fair, he gives one attempt at conversation, which Hajime completely blows off. After that, it's all antagonism. Should've taken the hint, Kenzaki!) But, like, Hajime takes it all in while probably calculating how many times he could've killed Kenzaki during that I'll Tell On You threat. Four times? Five? It's left to Hajime's fertile imagination, a fun little daydream that has him smiling as he walks away.

There's a little more for Hirose, who's just shattered after realizing that her dad might've accidentally/intentionally doomed humanity. Or, at least gotten a bunch of innocent people killed? Either way, she's spun around by it, unable to see how she can make up for something this massive.

I'll be honest, I'm not super moved by Hirose's plight here? I don't know if it's specific to the culture, or to the genre, but the idea that something her father did, that she had no prior knowledge of or ability to prevent, would be such an enormous weight on her that she can't function as a person... I don't get it? I mean, I've seen enough Kamen Rider shows, I get the motivation of I Must Atone For My Family's Misdeeds, but I can't relate to it emotionally at all. It feels unreal, alien. I don't think of my parents as an extension or a reflection of me, I think of them (well, my mom) as their own people, responsible for their own actions. The concept of Hirose being practically inconsolable and feeling personally responsible... I just don't connect with it.

Still, it makes for a solid final scene, with Kenzaki letting Hirose in on his own mechanism for dealing with guilt. (Didn't love the corny Serious piano music, but whatever.) It's not a huge surprise or anything. We've gotten to know Kenzaki pretty well by this point, and I think he'd articulated some version of this speech before. (I think just last episode? In the car with Amane, maybe?) It's a good speech, though. He lets her know that the only way forward is to take that guilt and vow to do better in the future. To learn from your mistake, internalize that guilt and shame and rage, and let the memory of those feelings inspire you to do better next time. It's a nicely Kenzaki take on heroic resolve, where it's more about not letting your mistakes keep you from trying to improve than anything else. (Kenzaki does not think a lot of himself, so it's only natural his core motivation should be about constantly atoning for mistakes!) It's a healthy outlook.

And, then, I mean, Tachibana.


From his opening sequence, where he gets a glorious pot-shot in at Blade, to the middle section that's devoted to establishing that this is literally all in his head, through the finale where finding that out hasn't really changed his outlook at all, it's a hell of an episode for Tachibana.

I loved the beginning of the episode, where Kenzaki is trying everything he can to get through to Tachibana. He bows, head to the ground, to show that he still respects and admires Tachibana, begs him to do the right thing. Tachibana's so furious that Chalice took out the Undead a minute after he was going to, that he swears that he'll never forgive Kenzaki if he gets in the way again. It's a ludicrous overreaction, considering that exactly what Tachibana wanted to happen (sealing an Undead) totally happened! A minute after he wanted it to, and by not him, but it still happened! But Tachibana still is mad at the world for not recognizing the importance of his pain, so he stumbles to his bike and escapes to the safety of Dr Ladyfriend's office.

Here, in the middle, we see the heart of Tachibana's conflict, and it is impeccably stupid. It is thematically on-point, and yet also so goddamn pathetic that it loops around into being the best goddamn story in this episode.

CHAIRMAN runs up to Dr Ladyfriend's car to let her know the truth about Tachibana's condition. Namely, he doesn't really have a condition. The belt malfunctions when the user is afraid, and feeds that fear back into the Rider, along with terrifying images of their own destruction. (And yet, CHAIRMAN declares the Driver "isn't imperfect", which... so "can drive a scared user insane with fear" is Working As Intended? Sounds pretty imperfect to me, but I'm not a philanthropist/apocalyptic cult leader, so what do I know.) Tachibana isn't going to explode in a green mist due to a broken Driver, he's having an anxiety attack.

(And, look, I am not trying to trivialize anxiety attacks or anyone who suffers from anxiety. But there is a definite difference between people trying to cope with mental and emotional issues, and thinking you are going to actual explode unless you kill enough monsters. I mean, I got this comic available if Tachibana wants it, but he seems a little more mortally terrified than a comic can help with.)

It's fantastic, as a reveal. Thematically, it doesn't really matter if Tachibana was in real or imagined danger, since the point of his story is his inability to accept death with grace and nobility. His reaction to the information was what his story has been about, not the validity of that information. Dramatically, it's one thousand times better if everything he's done has been because he was freaking out over nothing. It's perfect. Perfect. It highlights the futility of his decisions, robs him of what little justification he had to act so selfishly. He was just scared. That's it.

And then everyone gets captured by army mans.

Sort-of an abrupt turn in the story? The army mans are connected to the new Undead (?) that's communicating-with-slash-taunting Chalice, but they mostly just jump Garren and Blade at the end, To Be Continued. (My favorite part in the scene where the army mans jump Team Blade is that Hirose puts herself between the army mans and Kotaro. He's useless in a fight, and everyone knows it!) It's something that I'm sure will be what the next episode will be about, but it didn't really feel too connected to the story being told in this episode. Still, it happened, and it was not bad.

Real solid episode of character moments in this Blade. Not a five-star episode maybe (the Hirose stuff is a little pat, and I've got no idea how they ended up finding her on a goddamn pier), but the Hajime character is really becoming a spotlight, and god bless the wreckage that is Tachibana. I hope he never gets better as a man, because he's already perfect as a character.

Next time on Kamen Rider Blade: Kenzaki is a prisoner! Hirose looks at a screen! And I definitely started typing "Next time on Tachibana" before I realized what I was doing!