It's not that this wasn't a thematically-rich episode (there's a nice runner about supporting your friends by giving them independence, and the reality that large corporations generally don't have your best interests at heart), but this was an absolute corker of a plot-driven episode. Nearly every scene was either new information or Team Orphnoch running into Team Faiz. It's a big episode!


Although, I guess Team Orphnoch is Team Faiz now?! That was a hell of a final reveal, that Kaido is The Next Faiz. (Thank goodness I've been keeping my eyes open as instructed!) It's a solid story up to then, but that cliffhanger! Goddamn!

I really appreciate that the next story they decide to tell with Takumi after his But Why Heroism two-parter, the very next story is What If Someone Took The Belt Back. Super smart. He'd just accepted that he should be Faiz, and now he's free and clear to give up the burden.

Except, maybe it's not that much of a burden to Takumi? There's a quick scene with Mari and Takumi, after they give the belt back to Smart Brain, where Mari asks how Takumi feels about it. Takumi smiles and says he feels relieved. I wouldn't believe him anyway, but the fact that he smiles when he says it is just about the biggest red flag this show could go with. He's only happy when he's mad, so the fact that he smiles means he's very unhappy.

The last three Riders were very much Suffering For Our Sins types of Riders, and they each had stories about how deep and painful it is to fight as a Kamen Rider. I kind-of like the idea that Takumi feels a sense of fulfillment, of purpose as a Rider, and now that's being taken away from him. Worse, he might have to fight to get it back, which, visibly expressing a desire is maybe his kryptonite. While every other Rider has to accept a terrible burden, Takumi might want to be a Kamen Rider. It's something someone else can do, and he has to grapple with wanting it to be him instead. I really do love that, and it's typical of the way this show inverts Kamen Rider tropes for entertaining effect.


Like the way this show has the Orphnochs donating money to the disadvantaged/terrible (Yuuji! I will never get tired of Yuuji telling Takumi to be a better man!), doing each other's laundry to show they belong, and being a goddamn Kamen Rider. It's all hero stuff, top to bottom, and that's so consistently great to me. I love how much this show is making Team Orphnoch have a nobility to them.

As I sort-of suspected, Kaido's putting away of his old dream by theatrically obliterating the totem of it was... maybe something that's having a negative effect on him. He pushes away Yuuji and Yuka, and they react to it differently. Yuuji mostly just sees through Kaido's outburst and storm-off, and assumes he'll be back.

Yuka's response is interesting, because it's all about her core trauma. Yuka's so used to being blamed for everything, that she assumes that anyone's unhappiness is a) her fault, and b) her responsibility to fix. She makes sandwiches to cheer up Kaido, she badgers him for more information when he runs off, she frets about not doing enough. Yuuji's content to give a friend space, while Yuka clings to scraps of affection as though they'll be ripped out of her hands at any moment. It's a really interesting dynamic that group has.


Yuuji didn't get a ton to do in this episode, besides (naturally) staking a claim for Team Orphnoch to be the defenders of humanity. It's nice to have that scene, of Yuuji calmly and happily telling his friends that he thinks they should save lives, while the next scene is Mari telling Takumi he's a champion of justice and Takumi's just Ugh Why Would You Say That. It is delightful. You've got the monster group fighting for humanity, and you've got the Rider group giving away their Driver and quitting when the going gets tough on a neighborhood watch. (Takumi loves quitting! It's maybe his only dream!)

Kaido showing up at the end as The Next Faiz, teaming up (effectively!) with the FaizCyKill to save Team Faiz from an Orphnoch... it's like my heart grew two sizes. It's great on so many levels. There's the visceral reveal level, where I zero percent was expecting Kaido to be given the belt by Smart Brain. There's the character level, where it's totally in keeping with Kaido's need for a new dream for him to take up the mantle of Faiz. There's the deeper character level of what exactly Kaido's getting out of this, why he'd fight to save people, why this dream. And there's the plot level, where I can't wait to find out how all of this gets untangled. If it ever does! Which I'm not really against! This show is killing it with its choices!


Just, it's really buckling down and nailing its storytelling for me. The humor's been great, the melodrama has been proportional, the characters are all so multi-faceted, and now the overall plot machinations are really popping for me. I think Murakami is a fun villain (although, this show, probably "villain”) that's not really done enough for me to get a grip on his character, but definitely has me curious. Like, this episode was great at getting me real, real invested in Smart Brain, Mari's missing adopted dad (because her birth parents died in a fire at Ore Journal, I guess, since she was rescued and brought down their back stairwell), and how those plots will alter things for Team Orphnoch and Team Faiz. Great episode!