1. God, it’s a dark show, isn’t it? Starting off with a nighttime science experiment is an appropriately spooky start to a Kamen Rider series. (Never a good idea! Monsters attack at night, and they love disrupting experiments! Beyond tempting fate, running your experiments at night is going to be a huge pain when it comes to employee retention. Most good scientists don’t want to work under cover of darkness, you know? Glassdoor’s going to have a field day with these Smart Brain folks, I feel like.) But, man, the rest of the show is mostly nighttime scenes, rural shoots where it’s all moonlight and darkness. Even the daytime stuff feels foreboding and weighty, the other shoe just dangling there. I’m hot and cold on dark Kamen Rider, but I thought this worked. Tonally, it felt like it was cut from the same cloth, with every sequence coming off as within the same genre. Even the few jokes are just brief breaks in the tension to highlight the tension, little release valves so things can get more tense again later. It’s… there’s a consistency to the tone that makes me feel like I’m on the show’s wavelength, if that makes sense. I feel like I’m watching one show telling one story, despite the threads of the episode not all intertwining.

  2. Yuuji! Hot damn, that’s a fun story. I mean, not “fun”, dude lost his parents in a car accident and then woke up from the dead (probably not important) to find that his uncle sold off his dad’s business and his family home while his cousin swiped his girlfriend, so, yeah, maybe not “fun”. But a really well-paced story, with this positive guy waking up to a nightmare, his whole world dissolved and why? For what? Why did this need to happen to him? It’s a great scene, him confronting his cousin. My favorite scene in the episode, probably. There’s a nicely underplayed power in Yuuji’s accusation, that he’s mad at his cousin and uncle, but he’s more mystified at the universe for punishing him in this way. His confusion is paramount in his performance, and that bubbles over into him becoming Horsepower, an equine instrument of vengeance. (I’m assuming that if this show was imported, that suit would definitely be called Horsepower. I’m willing to entertain other scenarios!) The way his vengeance is well-deserved, how he’s been so catastrophically wronged by the cosmos, I was pretty surprised at that choice in the story. It’s a scene I was maybe expecting the show to pull back on, for Yuuji to, I don’t know, come to his senses or something. But, nope, Cousin gets heart-murdered by Horsepower. It’s a great development, for the thread I felt the most entertained by.

  3. Which is no slight on the second-most important character in the episode, Kamen Rider Aubrey Plaza. (Did they ever say this girl’s name? I feel like they didn’t.) She’s awesome, and the second the Faiz Belt or whatever didn’t work for her just about broke my heart. I love that her story is pure ghost story bullshit, her off in the woods with some dudes who turn out to be monsters. Basic, primal. It’s solid, and it’s a great introductory scare of a concept. But the details to her story, the stuff around the edges, real compelling. Just clever bits of character sketching: she eats super fast, she hates being around these pushy dudes but she can’t seem to extricate herself from them, she's always on the move, she doesn’t give a shit if three guys wander up to her but YOU DON’T TOUCH THE BAG, it’s so much in so little time. Despite not having a real name, I think Kamen Rider Aubrey Plaza is my favorite character on this show so far? She’s frustrated by idiots, surrounded by connections she doesn’t want (which is a nice inversion of Yuuji’s story of closed doors), and she’s got a nice balance of being appropriately scared by monsters while still overcoming that, finding a way to fight back. It sucks that the belt didn’t work for her, but it’s cool that she’s just like Okay Random Dude You Wear This Thing And Kill The Monster Then. Great problem-solving, and, hey, it gets us this new Kamen Rider!

  4. Kamen Rider Faiz! He’s… in this episode, too! I guess! He’s a background player, and there’s not really much to say about him yet. Actually, I think that worked pretty well for me? It gave this episode a real Modern Doctor Who vibe, where a lot of the emphasis was on what I presume will be our supporting cast for the year, rather than the title character. It’s an acknowledgment of how easy it’ll be for viewers to invest in the cool hero who detonates/immolates monsters (now they immolate!!!), so why don’t we start off with these other kids. I mean, shit, it worked for me. I’m real curious about what’s next for Yuuji and what’s up with KRAP (unfortunate acronym!), so this backgrounding of the hero in episode to build out the supporting cast… great idea! Really dug it!

  5. I just, I really enjoyed this episode. I barely know what the hell’s going on, I don’t know anything about the title character, but I really had a good time watching this episode. Aside from some flashy camerawork in the Yuuji/Cousin Yelling In The Rain scene (love me some quick edits and off-center framing to sell a fractured mental state and an imminent psychokinetic freakout), this episode has a real head-down, do-the-work feel to it. Meat and Potatoes storytelling, where there are people who feel three-dimensional being hunted by weird monsters, and then a Kamen Rider kicks them so hard they die painfully. The monsters, not the three-dimensional people. Although, you know, a lot of story left to go on this one! Plenty of episodes left for three-dimensional people to die painfully!