Oh boy, more stuff about dreams!

There’s some heady stuff in this one, and a ton of its storytelling is given over to What Is A Dream pontificating, but it came together alright for me. I liked what it was doing more than I liked the episode, if that makes any sense. It’s not that fun of a ride, and it doesn’t nail its climax as well as last episode, but it does the necessary work of building out the characters. I’d compare this type of storytelling to having to eat your vegetables, but I guess some people love their vegetables?


Speaking of broken people, let’s talk about Takumi.

I really loved Takumi’s pep talk to Mari in this one. She’s had a tough day, failing her tryout at the salon, and she takes it out on Takumi. After hoping Keitaro will team-up on Takumi with her, and being left hanging, she runs off to cry. And, twist, it’s Takumi who goes to console her. Immediately, I was into this scene. Takumi is the Zero Empathy Rider, so him trying to get Mari to come home was bound to be fun viewing.

But he doesn’t really do anything. He tells her that, yes, he burned himself on her scalding udon, as expected. And then he just says they should go home. And it works! It’s a nicely underplayed scene of two people who knew that she was being a brat, and the other brat knew she didn’t want to talk about it, so they just ignore it. For a franchise that’s frequently about Sharing Is Caring, it’s gratifying to have a scene that is explicitly not that. It’s a woman who doesn’t want to apologize to a jerk who doesn’t want to talk about it. Everyone knows what happened, and it’s okay to move on.

The next part of the scene has a ton of work it has to do, and it’s… I don’t know, it’s a little clunky. It’s one speech that has to start to pay off three different stories in the episode. Mari has to talk about what her dream of being a beautician means to her, and it has to link together her storyline, Kaido’s storyline, and set up Takumi’s Rider Thesis Statement. The last one worked best for me.

I enjoyed it as a way of finishing out Takumi’s exploration of why people have dreams. He went from jealousy last episode, to confusion this episode, to wanting to fight for dreams by the end. I liked that Takumi chose to fight for other people’s dreams because he recognized what they meant to people, even if he couldn’t feel what they did. It’s a neat twist on how sacrificial some Rider motivations can be. This one, it’s not that he’s giving up his dream, but he’ll fight so that other people can follow their dream. It’s maybe a small thing, but I love that Takumi’s doing it on an almost theoretical level, like he’s fighting to protect wishes or trickle-down economics, unverifiable phenomenon. Like, this is nothing he’s ever experienced, but people say it matters to them, so he’ll fight for their nonsense. That’s so Takumi, dedicating his life to protect something he not only doesn’t understand but also thinks is still at least 20% bullshit.


The main thrust of what Mari’s speech is trying to do is be the counterpoint to Kaido’s take on dreams. For Mari, for Team Faiz, dreams are what motivates us to be better people, what gives our lives meaning. There's struggle, but without that struggle we'd be less as people. For Kaido and Team Orphnoch, dreams are what haunt us, and other humans exist to keep our dreams just out of our reach. The struggle only has value if you can reach your goal, and falling short is a fate worse than death. Collectively, it’s a nice take on how having a goal can provide shape and purpose to life, but being too caught up on achieving a goal can lead to sadness and ruin.

It’s way more solid for Team Orphnoch, though, because *gestures at Team Orphnoch*. These three have been ground up in pursuit of their dreams, whether that’s love (Yuuji), art (Kaido), or not being emotionally abused 24/7 (Yuka). Kaido 100% feels robbed by the universe, and it’d be way worse if he found out “the universe” was his old guitar instructor, who is also Owlphnoch. (Something I wish someone didn’t spoil before this episode!)

It’s a really cool decision to have Yuuji and Yuka find out about Owlphnoch’s role in Kaido’s injury, but not tell him. It’s got the dual purpose of letting Kaido’s catharsis be his mentorship of the first-year, keeping that plotline nice and clean, while giving Yuuji new reasons to doubt humanity. Keeping Kaido out of those revelations means the Owlphnoch fight is against Horsepower, though, and it’s just not as compelling to me as the Faiz/Owlphnoch fight. They go back to the well of having mournful guitar-playing as the soundtrack, even though the two fights it’s over don’t really match the pace. And then halfway through they’re just like Okay Hard Rock Fight Song and that’s what we get over the monster immolations. It’s a smart sequence (no one on this show does Aggrieved And Confused like Yuuji) right up until it sort-of shrugs through the action. I love the idea of Takumi and Yuuji both protecting people without the people they're protecting even realizing it, but the actual mechanics of the fights were a little lacking.

But, still, the Kaido stuff was pretty strong. They’ve made him way more of the Brooding Bad Boy than I was expecting, and he really nails it. He’s got the chops to play psycho killer one episode, and proud mentor the next.


Also, damn, a whole lot of mentorship in this one!

It’s Takumi’s declaration, that he’ll fight so others can follow their dreams, that puts the button on the sort-of sub-theme in this episode of the value of mentorship.

Both Takumi and Kaido are frustrated by being on the outside and looking in. They see people pursuing dreams, and they hate it. Takumi because he doesn’t understand it, and Kaido because he misses it. But even if they can’t enact their own dreams, maybe they can work to help others achieve their dreams. Takumi doesn’t viscerally understand Mari’s connection to her dream, but he wants to give her the safety to pursue it. Kaido can’t ever play the way he used to, but the first-year can, and maybe with Kaido’s guidance some small part of his dream can live on.

Even the guest stars get in on the mentorship thread, with Owlphnoch as the mentor that needs to keep you in your place for their own ego, and Mari’s salon boss as the mentor that pushes you because they know you can take it. They’re not really that thematically linked (the salon lady seems too busy to want to destroy Mari’s hands, for example), but it’s nice to get a couple more examples of ways mentors can be complicated.

Speaking of complicated, one thing I’d love to get people’s take on is the ending sequence of Kaido destroying his guitar. It starts with Kaido showing pride in knowing that the first-year is good enough to be the Kaido he never got to be, so that Kaido’s dream can live on through him. And then he throws his guitar away, putting that part of his life to rest. It’s… I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel good about that? There’s a reading where it’s for the best, Kaido flushing out his toxic jealousy in favor of a fresh start. But the destruction in the final shot feels like it’s all a mistake, an abdication of his humanity in favor of a future as an Orphnoch. Thoughts?


Thematically, this was a super-stuffed episode. Dreams, mentors, it was a lot to unpack. (I didn’t even touch on how weird it was to have the FaizCyKill show up during Faiz’s fight with Bee-Plot and immediately get into a fight with Faiz. They have a real bitter rivalry going on!) I think there was maybe one too many speeches about dreams, but nothing in it was aggravating. It’s trying to do a lot, and the visible effort of trying to say Big Things sort-of worked against it here. The more laid-back Faiz is about telling its story, the more I dig it. This one felt like they were trying a little too hard.