After rewatching these various Ex-Aid movies, and seeing the evolution of the cast across them, I realized what the "secret sauce" is that makes Ex-Aid work as a series: every one of the four main Riders thinks this is his show, and the other three Riders are his sidekicks. Brave is the hero, and if everyone would just stop being idiots and do what he says already, they'd be able to defeat the Bugsters and bring back those affected by the virus. Snipe is the hero, cast out after his failure, and his goal to redeem himself is constantly thwarted by the other Riders selfishly keeping the Gashats from the actual hero of the show, who'd be able to defeat the Bugsters and bring back those affected by the virus. Lazer is the hero, tracking down leads and getting killed when he gets too close to the truth, only to be resurrected in everyone's hour of need, instrumental in defeating the Bugsters and bringing back those affected by the virus. Ex-Aid is also a Rider.

(Look, I'm just poking fun. There's a whole TV series about how Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is easily in the Top 5 Kamen Riders for the show of the same name.)

It's because of this, the way every Rider views the events of the series as part of his personal, paramount journey, that these Another Ending spin-offs/epilogues work so well. It doesn't matter to Brave or Snipe or Lazer's stories that Ex-Aid isn't there, because he's just their sidekick. These stories are about them, like they've always been.

And it starts with a solid story, drawing from not only the events of the series that tie Brave and Snipe together (Saki, being assholes to everyone they care about and probably dying alone), but the theme of letting go of the past and being a better/truer version of yourself hits the main characters of this movie equally. Hiiro needs to once and for all say goodbye to Saki. Taiga needs to stop torturing himself over Saki's death. Nico needs to stop defining herself by her crush on Taiga and go live her life. It's, yeah, a solid thematic line that the movie follows, largely successfully.

I say "largely successfully", because you could argue that this whole story is a retread of the climactic Brave/Snipe story from Ex-Aid, where Hiiro sacrifices the ghost of Saki to save Taiga, and their feud/penance is put to rest. I think the movie gets away with it by pushing things a bit further, and making some key distinctions. Namely, there's a difference between "I don't wish you were dead for killing my girlfriend" and "I am ready to accept my girlfriend's death". There's enough sci-fi nonsense grey area to Saki's evaporation that I believe both characters would try to bring her back, no matter the odds. The movie hedges its bets by flat-out telling us in the first few minutes that it's totally possible to revive the infected dead. There's definitely some echoes to the series and how these characters stopped wanting to murder each other, but it never felt like a retread to me. I thought it all worked with Brave and Snipe's characters.

The Nico stuff, that took me a bit to feel good about, and I don't know if I'm all the way there. First, I hate that creepy Denim Harry Potter and his stalkery vibe. The idea of Nico "ending up with" that dink got my blood boiling. She can do better! Everyone can do better! Second, for a minute I was like, "In what world is giving up on a career in medicine and dedicating your life to playing games a smart move?" The show seemed to imply that Nico had grown up, and found her true calling as a student of medicine. That seemed really positive! Then the movie's like, "Nope, she's abandoning her fake dream of medicine to follow her real passion, being a child and playing games! Hooray! It all worked out, finally!" And, no, I didn't think it did. It seemed like a regression. But, if I squint hard, I can go along with it. Maybe she never wanted to work in a clinic and help people. Maybe she was only ever doing it to get close to Taiga. Maybe she was putting her life on hold, staying away from games. Maybe maybe maybe. I don't know that I like it better as an ending for her than the TV show one, but I can see where the movie's coming from.

Overall, Brave/Snipe was a really good start to the Another Ending trilogy. It managed to feel like a deeper exploration of both riders, without feeling like a retread or retcon of what the TV series did.

Parado and Poppy are interesting characters to pair for a movie. Unlike the four main Riders, they are sidekicks. Parado exists to be Emu's Luigi, while Poppy is the maternal caregiver, keeping all these active boys from feeling too sad. Putting them together and making them the stars feels a bit like the movie lacks a spine, but it sort-of makes up for that by asking some interesting questions.

Chiefly, what does it mean it to exist as a sidekick without a hero, and do Bugsters even have a right to exist? They're good questions, I think, and certainly enough to base a movie around, but I don't know if Paradox/Poppy does enough with them.

To the first question, I was really hoping that the initial appearance of Parado, bored on a roof with no villains to fight, meant that we'd get to see what the next stage would be for him. Sadly, it wasn't. Beyond a renewed dedication to fighting Bugsters and bringing back virus victims, the movie doesn't really give a sense to what Parado's actually going to do with the life he's been granted. I didn't mind the show not really delving into it in the third act, since they had an apocalypse or two to avert. But all the movie gives us for Parado to define himself with is "I have a heart and I deserve to exist". That's noble, but it's also something that I feel like was settled back in the series. There's incremental growth to his character, but I'd hoped for more in the spotlight.

And, boy, is it ever Parado's spotlight. Poppy gets co-lead billing, but she's as much a sidekick in this as she ever was on the show. There's never a point where I feel like Poppy asserts herself, and while that's disappointing, it's not the end of the world. The movie mostly uses her to explore the second question of the movie, whether Bugsters like Parado and Poppy, viruses that harm or kill their host, even deserve to still exist.

I think it's a fair question. Sakurako Dan was killed so Poppy could exist. Poppy didn't ask for that, but there's no denying it happened. Shouldn't Poppy be eradicated so a human being can be reborn? It's intriguing, and like the first question, the movie seems to think posing the question is sufficient. It isn't! Poppy and Parado would both just rather not die, thank you. Now that the threat of the Bugsters is largely over (according to multiple characters across the first two Another Ending movies, also about to be proven completely incorrect), why should two uncured diseases be allowed to roam around? There's a perfect opportunity to delineate the terms of Bugster existence, and why specifically Parado and Poppy have a right to live, but the movie doesn't come close to getting into it.

That's really my problem as a whole with Paradox/Poppy. There's a bunch of potential that the movie just doesn't do much with. The majority of the questions it answers are about what villain is doing which thing for what reason. It's content to connect the plots of all three Another Ending movies, but it misses out on saying something of its own.

Okay, I'm still not crazy about the idea of Kamen Rider TV series concluding/"concluding" in a series of movies. Ex-Aid as a series left a bunch of dangling plot threads, so the movies had legitimate stuff to deal with, but I still wish the story of Ex-Aid (the Dans, the Bugsters, Game Disease) had been finished on TV. I'm not sure I'm ever going to feel differently.


I really, really liked how Another Ending ended. It packed an emotional wallop, and it did it with the best villain facing off against the best Rider. Yeah, I said it.

When I was first watching Ex-Aid, I didn't know much of the formula for Kamen Rider shows. I didn't know that a) Kiriya could get killed, or that b) Kiriya would obviously not stay dead. All of that was a shock to me. I completely bought the stakes of what I was seeing. Some of that was a lack of familiarity with formula, but some was just because Kiriya was so, so good.

Again, it's because all of the Riders act like the show's about them. Kiriya has the swagger of a star, the guilt of a star (his best friend was killed by Game Disease!), the skills of a star, the resurrection of a star. If you could end the series with any Rider other than Emu, it makes perfect sense to do it with Kiriya, especially as his main grudge was with the show's best villain.

Another Ending buys a lot of goodwill from me by centering the villainy not on Masamune Dan, not on a new villain, but where it belongs: Kuroto Dan. All hail Kamen Rider Genm. I get why the show would want to shift him into an antagonistic hero-y role, all bug eyes and humiliating punishments, but it was inevitable that he'd reach for a villainous plan again, and it's the best way to send off the franchise. It just means more as an ending for Kuroto Dan to end with it. It feels final.

The other Riders, Brave and Snipe and Poppy and Paradox, they didn't get much to do in this finale. I'm okay with that, they got their movies. I'm extra okay with them staying true to their non-team dynamic, everybody pursuing their own goals, barely communicating, never asking for or offering help. It's great. Emu's laid up, so he's got an excuse, but it is so utterly in character for Brave and Snipe to just be doing their own thing while Lazer investigates, researches, puts the clues together, and tricks his way to victory. It's a celebration of nearly everything Ex-Aid did well as a franchise, and I'm glad I rewatched it.

Especially after that goddamn True Ending movie. (Sorry.)

I think that's it for Ex-Aid movie rewatches! Obviously, I'd love to keep chatting with people on their thoughts about these films, so feel free to chime in if you feel like it. For me, it's Build next, probably starting next weekend. Hope to see you there!