This may be the quintessential Okay Inoue episode for me; where there are a couple big-picture things I’m fascinated by, surrounded by a story that I’m already forgetting the details of.

The big idea in here, the one that’s central to this monster plot, is the idea of creativity being a resource. The Fangires seem to be sustaining themselves on art, targeting musicians and models and secretaries (time management is an art!), and the Octopus Fangire seems to draw strength from her performances. Creativity, the ability to make art, it comes across as something both innate and ephemeral, and I think that’s a real interesting take.

Anyone who’s ever tried to create something will tell you how unpredictable the process of creation is. Making art is, frequently, something that only makes sense in retrospect. You can dissect and judge your work in the aftermath, but the act of it is this mix of autonomic function and straight-up sorcery. It’s hard work, and yet it’s also sort of inevitable. Treating artistry as something to be coveted and consumed… real clever motivation for a monster. Inoue hit on it once before, with the epic Black Knife story from Kabuto, and it’s clearly something he wants to talk about.

It’s a little hard to see what he’s getting at about it in this episode, though. The Octopus Fangire doesn’t really get a ton of development, acting instead as a linking element between both eras of the narrative. It’s intriguing to see her connection to her violin, the pride she takes in it, but it’s nothing I can really nail down. I liked it, though. I like the monster feeling something deeper than the heroes, digging into a primal response that the Fangires are weaponizing somehow. Like, Artistry As A Commodity is such a neat concept to explore… I’m just glad it’s being brought up? There’re no real answers to it as a problem here. It’s not making a statement. But it’s raising the question in a compelling way, and I really appreciated that.

The other big idea, and one that seems equally likely to form a spine for this series, is trying to use art to connect with people. Specifically, Wataru is trying to find a part of himself by recreating the art his father made, and… like, I get why this would be Inoue’s last Kamen Rider series. The son of a tokusatsu writer, doing a series about fathers and sons, connected by art? Come on. What else could that dude have to talk about after this show?

For me, it’s intoxicating. I mentioned this during Kiriya’s story on Hibiki, but my dad died when I was two years old. Stories about men trying to understand the fathers they never knew, I am powerless against those narratives. That scene of Wataru picking up the violin his father played, playing the song his father played, and finding some thread stretching back over the decades, feeling that presence… man. Man! I am a million percent onboard for a show that wants to talk about obligation and connection and self-expression and self-respect and Would My Dad Be Proud Of Me and everything that goes along with trying to fill that formative void. Oh man, yes.

Complicating matters slightly for Wataru’s search for identity is that his dad is Grease, and Grease is WEIRD. Even in different phases of Heisei, this guy is down bad. Otoya is… he is a lot. There’s a slight comedic skeeziness to his horny obliviousness, but it’s mostly just aggravating. We’re completely on Yuri’s side in this episode, even as it’s apparent that there’s a greater depth to Otoya. He’s just tacky, and crass. That turtleneck, that chain, they say it all. He fancies himself a classy individual, a showy man of taste, but he’s just an oily creep. He’s someone Yuri is frustrated by, and he’s a distraction from her serious mission.

But then there’s the scene where he confronts the Octopus Fangire, and it’s pretty fantastic.

I mean, the fencing display Otoya puts on is very dynamic; all sparks and moonlight. But it’s the line he comes into the scene with that I’m most enamored of. He asks the Octopus Fangire, “What do you think music is?” It’s confrontational, and it’s almost wounded. The idea of her taking something beautiful and using it to harm, he’s offended by it. That type of character, who is protecting… not humanity as a species, but humanity as an attribute, I really dig that. Otoya respects art, respects what it means to people, and he can’t suffer the Octopus Fangire to live.

Those questions about art and creativity and connection, those made this episode a memorable one for me. The actual plot… a little less so?

Like, the Kiva fight was okay. Having it take place in the hallways of a racetrack is one of those things you kinda just have to not care about if you’re going to care about Kamen Rider. It’s there to facilitate the use of the Kivehicle (not checking the wiki), which is appropriately boss, but it means that Kiva’s fighting a monster in a beige hallway amongst cardboard boxes for a few minutes, and that ain’t anything to put on a Best Of list. It’s fine, but easy to zone out during. (I definitely did!)

We didn’t spend a ton of time in 2008 this episode, since this one was way more about introducing Otoya and expanding on Yuri/Megumi’s organizational ties (and Yuri is Megumi’s mom?!), but I really liked the plot about Wataru trying to find the correct wood to repair the violin. That whole scene of Megumi berating Wataru, Shizuka trying to defend Wataru, Megumi berating Shizuka, Shizuka starting to cry, and Megumi realizing she has been sarcastically insulting two weird kids and that is not a cool thing to do as an adult… so good. So good! It’s that Inoue character-building I love, where everyone’s being just a little bit awful and then feeling bad about it, and how that creates bonds between people. Wataru ending the scene by being unable to ask for a table correctly because he can't say words out loud under stress is the icing on a very delicious cake. Not a bunch with our modern-day cast, but they were incredibly charming. Socially-awkward skinny pretty boy Kamen Riders and tough female friends always, please and thank you.

Fun episode, but maybe more fun in the way where it’s giving me stuff to think about in the aftermath. The last third of it was kind of a snooze, but everything it’s bringing up about Dads We Never Met and The Power Of Art was terrific. I’m drawn to those stories, and I’m excited to see what Inoue’s going to have to say about them. Plus, Zanki lives in the belly of a Dinosaur Cathedral and plays chess, so that’s also something to look forward to.