Oh, I loved this episode.

It's all Oomura, basically. He's the perfect vehicle to explore multiple characters. (Only the men, though! Shizuka and Megumi never appear, and Yuri doesn't really have a plot in this one.) He's complex and sympathetic, but he's also embodying the hopes and fears of our heroes.

Wataru is one of the bigger ones. The connection they found in the last episode blooms throughout this one. It was incredibly sweet, the way the exposition came about for Oomura's backstory. The episode starts with Wataru protecting a Frog Fangire from IXA, and then the next scene is Wataru and Oomura making a violin in the golden sunset; a father's pride and a son's devotion. It's so nice. It's just nice.

Wataru's relationship with Oomura doesn't really change after he learns that Oomura's a Fangire, which is the perfect choice. When you've got one Rider like Nago who is Always Certain (he screams that he's always right and never wrong as he's storming out of a lunch with Wataru, totally normal thing that every sane person does, it's the new See You Later), the opposing force is to Ask Questions. When Wataru sees a person he respects turn into a giant frog (with pink buttcheeks), he's going to let them tell their side of the story. Oomura didn't stop being a Guest Dad just because he's a monster. Wataru's heroic enough to see people for their actions, not their reputation.

He's hopeful that there can be good Fangires out there, because... I don't know, exactly. It's not really discussed, what Fangires mean to Wataru. We know what they mean to Nago (BURN IT WITH FIRE), and we know what they mean to Oomura, but with Wataru? Hard to say. I'd like to take him at face value in this one. I like him just being happy that there's the possibility for good in the Fangires, for no greater reason than There Should Be More Good In The World. Like, it's simple.

Oomura represents Wataru's hope for goodness, but he also represents Nago's belief of the inevitability of sin. Nago's going to destroy every Fangire, because it's only a matter of time until they turn on humanity. And, hey, if the Fangires are reluctant to show their villainous desires? Well, Nago will be right there to give them a little push.

I love that Nago taunts Oomura into losing his cool, and then, like, leaves? It's like Nago needed to break Oomura utterly, to show Oomura that he's a monster. It's not that Nago was looking for an excuse to murder Oomura, he was looking for Oomura to accept the rightness of Nago murdering him. Nago can't win unless someone else loses, and that especially applies to arguments about the capacity for change and forgiveness. Fangires aren't Nago's archenemy, moral relativism is.

Nago, of course, gets the final blow on the Frog Fangire. Kiva was never going to take him out, and we ain't at the point in Heisei where guest-star monsters get to go make art in peace. (Cubi! I hope you come back for that Ghost/Saber thing!) That just left IXA. (Also, this is the IXA introduction story, so it was always going to end with IXA killing Oomura. Always.) The whole IXA Calibur (yeah, I got it) Rise Up thing was amazing, IXA using the power of the sun to defeat his adversary. It's the obvious flip on the eclipse finishers Kiva uses, but it's also so classically Nago: a nuclear furnace of unstoppable force, washing out shadows and nuance, blinding in its horrifying intensity. Kiva is all moonlight and serenity; IXA is all sunlight and force. It's a great showcase for IXA, and as demoralizing as you'd assume a Nago Wins finish was going to look like.

And it's sad. It's so sad. Oomura gets to die in slow motion, using his final breaths to tell Wataru that he believes in him, because this whole episode wasn't poignant and beautiful enough. It's an ending that's as complex as Oomura ended up being, where Nago's fatalism and Wataru's empathy meet in the middle. Oomura couldn't keep his rage at bay like he promised, but he was still someone who deserved pity. He cared about art, and he wanted to bring more of it into the world. He wanted to be more than people's expectations, and while he couldn't quite reach those levels, the fact that he tried made him someone to root for. It's why Otoya gave him a second chance at life in 1986.

It's Otoya who comes out the best in this episode, which is why I'm talking about him last. After this, there's no higher point to end on. It's an episode that redeems Otoya by taking him away from his worst impulses (Yuri; still had a killer comedic scene with her in the beginning, absolutely great rapid-fire jokes, he asks her if she thinks he looks like a liar and she goes Of Course and he goes Fair) and letting him focus on his craft. It's that mirror to Oomura's story that I really respected, where they're both men that want to be artists, but they keep getting in their own way. I think Otoya is self-aware enough to see that parallel, his own womanizing and Oomura's possessiveness for the Black Star, and how those things keep them from being their best selves. Otoya can sympathize with Oomura as a man with weaknesses.

He can also connect with Oomura as an artist, and it's here that the episode made me a believer again in Otoya. The last few episodes have been all Creep Otoya, and no Sensitive Otoya. Here, outside the harassment of Yuri and the rivalry with Zanki, Otoya's free to talk about art with another artist, and you can see how that humanizes him. He's contemplative, quiet. When he goes to smash the Black Star, to end Oomura's rampage for good, he can't do it. The violin is innocent, and it deserves to exist. It's Otoya finding the heart of a thing, seeing past its reputation for its actions, and finding something to cherish. His son would make the same decision 22 years later, and that thread is what this show does best. Getting to see the ways Wataru's positive qualities were handed down from his father, that the connection Wataru is always reaching for was already in his grasp... it's like Oomura's lesson about Wataru's violin-making. When this show tells this kind of story, one only it can tell, it's outstanding. It is sublime, it is smart, it is moving.

I hope it ends up taking Oomura's words to heart.

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