It's not a perfect episode (I don't know that the Sheep Fangire really comes together as a character; pretty weird that Nago just 100% bails on this story after Megumi gets captured), but it's exactly the episode I needed right now.

That middle section, you know? Where all the cross-cutting between timelines ceases to feel chaotic and instead becomes illuminative, a brilliant burning thread stretching across the decades to unify four people in the defense of life's eternal beauty. It's such a perfect moment, and it's an incredibly Inoue message.

The whole episode is, which is why I'm going to be raving about more than just that one scene. It's an episode that values empathy and resilience over aggression and selfishness. It's a story about the value in letting yourself be vulnerable, and how that forges a greater connection than bluster or dominance. The second you stop trying to control other people, that's when you can work with them to achieve something special.

But that middle section! It absolutely eradicated any misgivings the last episode gave me about our core cast. (I mean, not Nago. He's still a controlling jerk, but he's not really in this episode.) It's when Otoya and Yuri are tied up in 1986, while Wataru and Megumi are tied up in 2008.

The symmetry of it all is great, and worth all the contrivances of the plot. Wataru and Otoya have both failed in different ways to free the women that've been captured. Otoya went in swinging, and got knocked out in short order. (I guess he's only a good fighter when he has Yuri's gear?) Wataru went in with kindness, and got captured. (As unhelpful as that ended up being, I do appreciate that the show had Wataru offer himself as a trade. It's so innately decent that I can't for a second fault the show for doing it.) Both men mope over their losses, while both women find the strength to keep fighting. It's a great moment for both women.

And then it just keeps evolving.

As they're working to get out of their bonds, Yuri takes a minute to ask Otoyoa why he's so much That Way. Why is he expending so much energy on a woman that vocally despises him? (I mean, dude got captured by a decorative vampire monster trying to save her!) Otoya's been more subdued this episode, genuinely concerned for Yuri's safety, so we get to see him in a bit more of a contemplative mood. He says that everyone gives off music, and he likes the music she gives off. It's corny. It is so corny. It honestly brought tears to my eyes. He's so earnest when he says it to her, this way of seeing the world as a constant symphony, and her singular place in it for him. It's so vulnerable and sweet that Yuri can't help but smile to herself about it, even after Otoya ruins the moment by reaffirming his irritating need to woo her at every turn. It's a more human side to Otoya, a pure belief in everyone's value, as well as a deeper connection with Yuri. It's such a strong moment for these two characters.

And then it just keeps evolving.

Back in 2008, Wataru is trying to understand why Megumi does what she does, where she gets her strength. And she tells him about something her mother used to say, about everyone giving off music, and how she feels the need to protect that music, or something, she doesn't really know what it all means. It's a breezy explanation, so typical of Megumi (she's always got a different move!), that connects all four of our heroes. It's a thing Otoya said to Yuri, that Yuri said to Megumi, that Megumi said to Wataru. It's a theme that trickled down from a slimeball in 1986 to his heroic son in 2008. It's... I mean, again, tears in my eyes. It's a boy who needed direction, finding it in the words of his father, delivered by a woman he can look up to.

That little moment at the end was maybe as powerful for me. In a story where Wataru looks for masculine strength to provide structure and approval, he finds his heroism instead in Megumi; in vulnerability and empathy and recognition and perseverance and respect. When he plays his violin for her in the hospital, it's him acknowledging her place in his world, the value of her guidance. It's not him trying to play for a room full of strangers, proving to the world his fortitude. It's him appreciating someone who helped him, letting himself be weak around her to show his inner strength.

Honestly, everything with Wataru and Megumi and Yuri and Otoya was killer for me. The way both Yuri and Megumi never buckled under the weight of their predicament, always pushing forward towards success... such amazing characters. (And that musical cue that played over both of the Every Person Gives Off Music speeches! I love it so much! Best piece of music this show has done outside of the main theme!) All four of our main cast members had an exceptional outing here.

Not just them, though! We got to see Zanki go full Clawolve (that's the singular of Clawolves, I did not check the wiki) in a forest brawl that... I don't know, it was alright. I was already so dialed into the episode emotionally that any fight scenes felt almost tacky to me. It climaxed at that middle section, and the aftermath of that sequence was not super memorable to me. Part of it is that I like dialogue in my fight scenes, and neither Kiva nor Zanki like to chatter. (Kiva did make a fun little noise when he shattered the frozen Sheep Fangire, but that's not really dialogue.) The fights themselves are decent, and Kiva got a new Gun Form here, but there's just not enough character to the fight scenes for me. I like 'em better when they talk!

Otherwise, yeah, boy, real winner of an episode for me. It's sweet in all the ways the previous episode was sour, with the Yuri/Megumi bond becoming the scaffolding that steadies Wataru. It's an episode that lets Otoya be both a joke and an inspiration, which is a balance the other episodes have struggled with. (This was Otoya's best episode to date by a mile.) And, man, having Wataru learn a lesson about how to be a good man directly from his father, but via Yuri and Megumi... yeah, exactly the kind of story I wanted to see Kiva tell. Very happy tonight.