"Cut my feet on a rope course
Dragged through the woods by a frightened horse
Lost all my feeling when I fell through the ice
Regained it in time to be attacked by mice"

-Superchunk, "Slow Drip"

This is... maybe the least checked-in I've been for a Kamen Rider endgame? I genuinely can't recall a time I've cared less about the overall plot of a season. I mean, to put it in context, there was a scene where an excited Hitomi (remember her?) is trying to get Asumu to pitch in on her panel theater group, and I honest to god thought Yes Please Just Follow That Thread For The Next Four Episodes.

All of the monster stuff just feels like arbitrary bullshit, quantity over quality. There's no sense of design or progression, just No Monsters BUT THEN A MILLION MONSTERS. (No appearances from either set of Douji and Hime, which makes everything here feel even more random.) If anything's orchestrating things, I can't tell. If the Oni have any strategy for stopping things beyond stamping out the occasional fire, I can't tell. It's just a cacophony of monsters, and then the Oni rally to destroy them, repeat. It's not even a story, it's just a spectacle, and I came here for a story.

Luckily, there are a whole bunch of characters I like, so I mostly enjoyed this episode as long as I ignored the feeling that it didn't really have an overall idea to communicate.

I mean, that's not technically true. There's a little sliver of a theme to it, where Hibiki and Zanki are both struggling with their kids. It's just, the situations are so different (Kiriya is an asshole, Todoroki was nearly killed in heroic battle) and the stakes are so uneven that, beyond Parenting Is Tough, I'm not clear on what's supposed to be tying this whole thing together.

As with last episode, even if it's hard to call this episode a success (it's like a C- grade on my internal scale, which would make this an F- for anyone else), there's some quality character beats to it.

We'll start with Hibiki, who I feel like I never talk about anymore? In fairness, boy, not a great storyline he's in. Kiriya is more abrasive than ever before, in a way where I can't figure out what the show thinks the viewers are getting out of his plot. Hibiki is trying to figure this kid out, provide him with support, but why? Nothing Kiriya's done so far paints him in anything less than a pathetic light, and now he's added Mopey to his list of negative character traits. There's some value to Hibiki trying to still be a mentor to this kid, and the character always plays on the right side of Supportive Without Being A Doormat. He's willing to defend Kiriya without question, because he's responsible for him as his mentor. It's the Oni version of unconditional love, and it's all over this episode.

Obviously, it's a heavy part of the Todoroki and Zanki stuff, which is still working great for me. I'm a sucker for stories about jocks who feel like suffering a catastrophic injury is worse because of how they've let everyone they love down. That story... oof. My emotions! So having Todoroki unable to bear looking weak around Hinaka, having him regress back to the safe space of leaning on Zanki... I really like all that. I like how both Todoroki and Zanki have taken opposite but equally detrimental lessons from their Oni training. Todoroki continues to view his need to get well as not some personal outcome, but as a debt he owes to the Oni. Meanwhile, Zanki is willing to sacrifice himself to buy Todoroki the time it takes to get better, something Todoroki 100% would not be cool with. It's a real Gift Of The Magi deal, where Todoroki is pushing himself to lessen the burden on Zanki, and Zanki is burdening himself because he sees how hard Todoroki is pushing himself. It is... it is very Inoue plotting! I am not complaining about that!

am complaining about Asumu's story which... it's like the endgame monster plot, where I just don't care about it? The main problem is that there's been zero struggle or friction in Asumu's training. He's accomplished every task that Hibiki's put in front of him, and it's clear that he'll be an adequate, if unexceptional, apprentice. He's fine. He'll probably do fine. But the story is completely about Kiriya's role as apprentice, with Asumu mostly trying to keep Kiriya focused. It's barely an Asumu plot, in the sense that there's no conflict whatsoever. It's only in this episode that Kiriya, who has quit, tells Asumu that Hey Dummy We Were In Contention. There was a dramatic plot and Asumu didn't even know he was in it. That is not great writing, assuming you think Asumu is one of the lead characters of this show.

Yeah, not a super-thrilling installment. The Todoroki stuff still works, thanks to the actors, but that's about all I got out of this one. Nothing else really jumped out at me, give or take Zanki dying and then showing up in Todoroki's hospital room as a Force Ghost.

But that's a next time discussion.