Hey, let's talk about endings.

One of the things I really like about the Kamen Rider franchise is that, unlike the endless second acts of American superheroes, their stories are allowed to end. Hell, they're designed to end. Each season spends a year telling one story, with one cast. When that year is up, the story's been told, and it's time for a new cast and a new story. I think that's fantastic. A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Not every Rider season had a good story, but they all had beginnings, middles, and ends.

And then there's the modern media landscape.

Nowadays, any narrative project that has a fervent fanbase is ripe for exploitation. It doesn't matter how conclusively a story resolved itself, if there's money to be made, there's more story to tell. The Kamen Rider franchise is no exception.

In general, on the balance, I like the way Kamen Rider exploits fan interest in Legend Riders. Having a cast show up in the next Rider's winter movie is a fun little epilogue as well as a passing of the torch. The occasional V-Cinema or web-video is rarely more than a victory lap (Accel, Baron), or even just a goof (Brain, also Baron). With all of these extra Ex-Aid "Ending" projects, though, it feels like American superheroes, where there's an End, then another End, then another End. (I mean, three of these are literally called Another Ending!) It loses the commendable finality of the TV series ending for a Kamen Rider show, and replaces it with More Content.

And, up front, I get that Ex-Aid had a shorter season, and that the producers might've felt like they had more story to tell. I'm just not sure that's the case if this was the story they really wanted to end Ex-Aid with. It's a decent enough movie, but it just fundamentally doesn't work as an ending for Ex-Aid.

For a start, it's not even a story about anyone in the Ex-Aid cast. The whole story is about Kagenari and his daughter. He's the only character with an arc in this movie, who's challenged and changes as a result. He's a cool enough villain, and his arc is compelling, but boy o boy did the writers half-ass it on his motivation. Much like beloved second dad of Makoto, Daigo Fukami, Kagenari abandoned his wife and newborn child for... some reason? The movie never even tries to explain why. He just leaves, until one day he finds out his daughter has terminal cancer and he decides to put her in a video game because he cares about her happiness so much. He cares! About the child he abandoned! For absolutely no reason! These Rider shows have this amazing hypocrisy about the undeniable power of family (his abandoned wife just takes him back!) while also having dads just walk out on their families because, like, a bad song came up on a Spotify playlist. It is infuriating as a plot device.

So, if it's not even about Ex-Aid, how does it work as an Ex-Aid ending? Not great, Bob! We don't learn anything new about any of the main cast, and none of them change as a result of the story being told. There's small epilogue-y bits of business with the cast during the credits, but, and maybe it's been a while since I watched the actual final episode of Ex-Aid, didn't we basically do all of this already with them? The idea that Taiga has a clinic, that Emu's a doctor, that Hiiro didn't disappear... this is how the series ended, right? The exact same way?

And the villain, the real villain, ends up being Johnny Maxima, who's half a joke, and he turns into Gamedeus, the exact same villain from the end of the series, but minus the threat and all of the hard work the show did on Masamune Dan. This just has a monster for Ex-Aid to blow up, while the real emotional crux of the story is happening with the movie-only characters in a completely different scene. The Johnny Maxima stuff just doesn't matter to anyone in the story. He's there, and he's powerful, but all of the emotional engagement is with Kagenari and his daughter. If there's a part of the movie that works, emotionally, it's that reconciliation scene. And they keep cutting from that to a boring retread of the same boss battle the TV show had! It is baffling.

(Quick aside: yeah, I know the movie came out before the show ended, but a) it takes place afterwards, so I'm okay calling them on having a poorer version of the TV show ending, and b) repetition is repetition, if it's not this movie being derivative of the show, then it's the other way around, which is just as bad.)

If this was just, like, a bonus Ex-Aid movie, a summer distraction, then I wouldn't be so harsh on it. (Okay, maybe a little, the motivation for Kagenari is bone stupid.) The cast is still great. I appreciate the way everyone fights for justice but they all do it in their own way. Like, Kiriya is the least trustworthy Nice Guy archetype I've ever seen, and I love it. Everyone gets a chance to be cool in a fight, even Poppy. (Okay, not Nico. Boo!) It's very much the Best Version of the show cast. It all looks good and plays well. It's not a bad Ex-Aid summer movie.

But they called this thing True Ending. TRUE Ending! Superior and more definitive than the TV show ending! When it is saying nothing about the Ex-Aid cast. When they are side characters in their own movie. When they just fight the same boss monster, again. It is such an overpromise of a title. Weird. Weird choice, Toei.