A story where a group of men are shown to be patronizing and mostly useless, while a variety of women try their level-headed best to do their jobs? Don't mind if I do!

I feel like Malcolm, the owner of Mal d'Amour, is maybe the only respectable man in this episode. Every other guy is either controlling, or confrontational, or gullible, or a Fangire. They're all pretty worthless this episode, which is kind of an unusual choice.

It's a great choice, though? It's the most testosterone-soaked episode I can imagine, where every man in it is locked into bizarre approximations of masculinity, vainly trying to fit into some shape that literally no one is asking them to fit into. Nago is ostensibly keeping an eye on Megumi because he thinks Kiva will rescue her again (he's right, very genre savvy), but it's mostly just so he can crush her spirit and prove his superiority. Wataru is so blinded by the need to channel Nago's Big Dad Energy that he agrees to stalk Megumi. Otoya's limitless pride is wounded by Zanki's leather-clad beatdown, so the two of them engage in an epic street fight that Yuri leaves halfway through. And then there are multiple Fangires abducting our heroines, and they are (hilariously) the least-regrettable elements of this story.

It's funny as hell, don't get me wrong. Nearly every gag in this thing kills, and the soundtrack is so heavy on plussing up the comedy that it's almost impossible not to grin throughout this thing. I genuinely enjoyed this episode for what it was doing.

It's just... I don't know. I laughed a lot at this episode, but it's doing a really weird thing with its male cast. It's pushing all the men super far out into Creep territory, but only so it can (I assume/pray) pull them back into Misguided But Basically Good territory for the conclusion of the story. Like, it's not a story where they're growing from Good to Better; it's a story where they're pushed to Awful so they can grow to Good. If that makes any sense?

I don't know that anyone is specifically out of character, weirdly, which is maybe a damning thing to say about this episode. (An episode I liked! I feel like I'm going to have to keep saying that!) Nago trying to control Megumi is pretty much expected from him at this point, but the whole gaslighting thing about her not really disliking him, she's just jealous of his greatness, that is a new wrinkle. Wataru being easily misled (and way too trusting of confident men) is also well-established. I don't know if I love him never once saying Hey Is Megumi Actually Okay With This while he monitors her in a pool or rifles through her belongings, but again: way too trusting of confident men. (Even ones who look like Ryotaro being possessed by Urataros, the least-trustworthy look imaginable.) Even Otoya's newfound love of fisticuffs feels likely from someone who thinks that highly of himself and works that hard on his presentation. It's all... everyone here is just 10% more themselves than usual, which is both alarming (they are already very themselves!) and also not big of a deal (it's only 10%). This one's calibrated a little heavier towards comedy, and that means a world of lunatics is going to get even crazier.

Except for Megumi and Yuri, who are pretty much the voices of reason for this episode. (Shizuka's only in one scene, because if she continued in the Wataru plot she'd shut it down in about two seconds.) It's up to them to constantly reframe what's happening as horrible decisions men are making, not anything for their benefit. Megumi gets the scene of the episode, when Nago tries to blame Wataru for spying poorly on Megumi when Nago told him to, and Megumi just goes No One Should Have Been Spying On Me You Idiots.

The things these dudes are doing in this episode... they are all terrible. They all have this idea on what a man should do, and how a woman should be grateful for that decisiveness, and it's all pathetic. Wataru is the only one who realizes his mistake, feeling equally bad for disappointing Work Dad and Work Mom. That scene, with Wataru moping in the tub, it actually leads into a scene that felt disconnected to me at first, but now I think it's the key to Wataru's arc in this story.

Out of nowhere, Kivat asks Wataru why he even fights as Kiva. After all, Wataru's spent an episode being utterly complicit in awful behavior, while also loudly declaring his various personality flaws to anyone in his orbit. Why does this pushover fight monsters? It's his father's violin, he says. There's a message it puts out, to Fight, and he feels it in his soul. He feels the music so deeply that he can't second-guess it, can't run away from it. There's a version of him that knows what to do, but it's usually so covered up by What I'm Not that he gets confused, follows the wrong examples. It's what saves him from being as bad as Nago or Otoya in this episode. Wataru is someone who feels incomplete. He looks for other people to give him purpose, or direction. He's enamored of Nago's self-confidence, so he abandons his own decision-making. But if he stopped for a second, listened to what's inside of him, maybe he wouldn't be like every other dude in this story. Maybe he'd be comfortable inside of himself, and stop trying to be something he isn't.

Anyway, I did enjoy this episode. It's not perfect. It's a story about misbehaving men and sensible women, but it gives itself over almost entirely to the misbehaving men. (There's a couple sweet scenes of Megumi and Yuri that helped drive home their invisible bond. The way they both twirled their keychains in the parking garage was touching.) It's funny from front to back, but a lot of that humor is from the show stretching its cast into mostly unheroic shapes. It's critiquing performative masculinity while also painting the walls with testosterone. It's as likely to offend as it is to entertain, which is a very Kiva way of telling a story.

Worked for me, though!