This time on Kamen Rider Blade: Hajime splits! Kenzaki fumes! Hirose hides! Tachibana resigns! And Karasuma exposits!

I have an intense fear of flying.

It started years ago, and I'm not even certain why. I flew a lot as a kid, and as a teenager. Trips to California, trips to Florida, trips to Tennessee. A trip to London, even.

And then, one day, it's like my brain just flipped to Terror. A flight was a nightmare, but the anticipation of a flight was a hundred times worse. Just sitting in a chair at a departure gate would make me nearly paralyzed with anxiety. It got to the point where I stopped flying for years. Just avoided it entirely. Flights to Florida, to visit my mom, became multi-day road trips. Short business trips were avoided, begged off with excuses. My life became reoriented around Does Not Fly, some psychological quirk that I knew was solvable, but seemed so unimaginably difficult as to be not worth trying.

And then, one day, I decided I didn't want to live like that anymore. I didn't want my life to be shaped by my fears. I went to my doctor, explained the situation, and got a small batch of anti-anxiety pills. I bought a ticket to visit my mom, and I went. It was still terrifying. The pills helped a little, smoothed some of the edges, but it's not like they turned my brain off. I was still aware that I was doing something that my brain was very adamant that I not do. But I did it. And I've done it since then. Not a lot. I'd still prefer not to fly, if it's a choice. But I haven't let myself be limited by my fear of flying.

All of that is a way of talking about how much I appreciate what the show is doing with Tachibana and, to a lesser extent, Hirose.

Tachibana's story is all about how difficult it can be to overcome fear, how knowing you're afraid doesn't ever keep you from feeling afraid. The solution to his debilitating pain is simple, according to Karasuma: stop being afraid. But that's not something you can just do. It's hard, it's uncertain, it's intensely personal. It's easier to make your peace with your shortcoming, and just think of yourself as unfixable. Tachibana isn't afraid, a state that can be removed or ignored. He's a coward, in the same way he's a certain height or blood type. It's an innate part of him, even if it's only now been discovered and cataloged.

You can't... you can't live like that indefinitely, though. It may allow you a few moments of relief, just giving up on yourself. But eventually you realize that you're not escaping from anxiety, you're indulging in shame. That bargain you made with yourself becomes a prison, a way of resigning yourself to feeling limited, reduced. No matter how much you're afraid of something, there comes a point where the detrimental effects of avoiding that fear become too great. For me, it was getting sick of making excuses for why I wouldn't fly. For Tachibana it may be a rampaging Zebra Monster with hoofprints over its nipples. (Bonkers design!) But there's a point in every fear where you get to decide if you're more comfortable feeling ashamed than you are feeling afraid.

And that's a fight you never really win, can't ever vanquish for good, which is what I like in Hirose's story.

In some ways, it's a retread of the story that led to Kenzaki giving her his But Why Heroism speech, right before he got kidnapped. Hirose feels as though her father's actions are a cloud over her. She can't stop thinking about them, feeling guilty about them. Karasuma tells her that there's no reason for her to feel that way. Her father didn't decide to unseal the Undead on his own. On top of that, they'd've been unsealed eventually anyway, even if he had never been involved. She needs to stop focusing on horrible things that happened in the past, and start concentrating on the good she can do in the present.

It's, like I said, a bit of a retread. (Karasuma gives a little more background, but his advice is the same as Kenzaki's.) But the guilt that Hirose feels, it's like the fear Tachibana feels. They both know it's there, they both know they're the ones making themselves feel this way, and those aren't feelings that can just be banished. It's a struggle, always. Hirose is going through this again, needing that speech again, because she will always feel responsible for what her father did. She ekes out a victory each time she takes those feelings and overcomes them, just like Tachibana hopefully will.

hey also there are riders in this show maybe it would be okay to talk about them real quick

The Chalice/Blade fight at the end is fantastic. Chalice feels the walls closing in around him at home. Amane is angrily (and reasonably!) demanding answers for why Hajime knew that there was a bomb in the restaurant. Haruka is less angry, more nurturing, trying to make him feel comfortable enough to talk if he wants. But he runs, instead. He can't bear the vulnerability necessary to be a human, so he abandons that humanity and whatever hopes went along with it.

Kenzaki has been given a ton of information from Karasuma about the Undead, the battle royale, how the stakes might be nothing less than the fate of humanity. But that isn't what's motivating him. His motivation is Hajime coldly watching him from an observation room window. It's the memories of Chalice, sneering with contempt at the very idea of humanity. It's Hajime being right under their noses this whole time. Chalice isn't a misguided hero, to Kenzaki; he's a world-destroying villain that's been laughing at them the whole time, abusing their trust.

And that's how they meet, zooming past each other on their bikes. Kenzaki, ready to reassert his heroism and work out his rage. Hajime, desperate to forget what he's given up and aching for a fight. There are no recriminations or threats. They just pause, Henshin, and fight. It's a fight that starts at sundown and continues into the night. It's not heroic or villainous. It's just rage. It's another emotion that's always there waiting, if you aren't strong enough to contain it.

Next time on Kamen Rider Blade: Garren back in action! Hajime can't control his anger! And late-night Rider Jousts are in season!