Maybe it's because of how difficult he makes it for his characters, but I really love it when Inoue writes a story about surprise friendships.

I wish this whole episode had been about Wataru trying to be self-sufficient for, like, an afternoon before giving up and attaching himself (like a vampire!) to someone else's dream. It's nice that the show let Oomura's death have a lasting effect on Wataru, but it's nicer that Wataru's indefatigable defeatism managed to overcome it. I love how much this kid chooses Give Up On Myself as his first response to any time spent alone. To quote Achewood, Wataru "folded with a focus and intensity normally seen only in successes.”

It helps that Kengo's park performance is so random. His band broke up, so he decided to grab his amp and play a solo electric version of Destiny's Play to absolutely no one in an empty arboretum. (I'm getting why his bandmates quit! This is terrible promotion!) Empty, except for a curious Wataru, who falls in love with the raw power of Kengo's shredding. It's a very cute introduction, with Wataru's bashful enthusiasm forming the perfect compliment to Kengo's excitable boastfulness. I'm instantly on board with Kengo as a friend to Wataru (him looking like Alain cosplaying as Ankh don't hurt none), and every scene he was a part of was a delight.

Like, this whole episode, every Kengo scene was more fun than the one that preceded it, and it was mostly because every new character added to the mix improved the story. When Kengo's like Yeah We Need A Drummer, I think I gasped and said out loud SHIZUKA about two seconds before Shizuka showed up in a saucy cap to demolish that drum kit. It's just fun, man. Dumb fun. These three kids putting together a band: Kengo, a rock n' roll true believer who would normally have formed a pact with an evil creature for a fast-track to stardom if this were literally any other Kamen Rider series; Wataru, who honored a dying mentor's request to make a violin for about eight minutes before giving up and becoming a bass player for a rock band; and Shizuka, who is a ray of sunshine and always welcome in any plot she can shoehorn herself into.

Even Megumi is at her most entertaining when she wakes up from an Irish coffee bender to embarrass Wataru in front of his new friend. My favorite look on Megumi is Work Mom Is A Jerk Mom, so her drunkenly swaying around Mal d'Amour as she tells Kengo that Wataru is a friendless weirdo and that she will be joining the band on Rhythm Broom? Yes. I never, ever wanted her to sober up. Megumi being unable to compartmentalize her work grievances from her personal friendships is maybe my lifeblood. I crave it like she craves Nago's eternally-delayed comeuppance.

Anyway, yeah, there's a rest of this episode to the rest of this episode.

I liked it okay? It's more thematically meaty, for sure. There's Yuri and Megumi both wanting IXA for what it can emotionally solve for them. Yuri wants it to avenge her mother, while Megumi wants it to honor her mother. It's a plotline about how vengeance isn't heroism, and how our parents don't want us to suffer on their behalf. It's a neat way to comment on how destructive Yuri's quest is, to have Megumi so unfulfilled and unhappy. I feel like Yuri would tell her daughter that she doesn't need to be IXA to make her proud, and that makes Yuri's own quest sort of... unnecessary? Hypocritical? It's this lineage of women who keep thinking they owe something to their mothers that their mothers would never ask of them. That sense of obligation that's just a mask for their own loss and guilt, you know? It's interesting, even if it's less fun to watch.

I really liked this episode's focus on Megumi and Yuri again, but, like: all I wanted to watch was Wataru becoming a bass player in a rock band. You can't give me a story like that and expect me to be as invested in trips to Graveyard Cliffs (so iconic from Kabuto that I half expected Tendou to be brooding in the middle distance) or Nago's psychotically single-minded quest to destroy Kiva.

If this episode has a flaw, it's central to the storyline regarding IXA. Basically, the show hasn't yet come up with a legitimate reason why Yuri and Megumi can't be IXA. I'm sure we're heading for a resolution where Megumi (at least) will choose not to be IXA, but that's not the same thing. The vague explanations we're given here are totally unconvincing and blatantly patronizing. Why Zanki got the nod over Yuri is up in the air (still not a great look to choose Mononymous Mystery Man over Dedicated Legacy Lifer), but the explanation for why Nago got it over Megumi is ridiculous. They didn't give it to Megumi because she wants to be IXA for personal reasons, so they gave it to a maniacally violent narcissist who thinks he is chosen by God to dictate what is right and what is wrong. I would never suggest that W.A.K.E.U.P.'s decision-making is capricious, but this justification seems slightly disingenuous. Pretty much calling bullshit on Megumi getting passed over, if this is how they're selling it to her.

But I don't care about that! I don't care about how bizarre the Fangire fights were in this one (why was it laying underneath leaves in a forest?), I don't care about how cool the IXA/Kiva fight scene was (very cool!), I don't care about any of it. I care about this brand-new friendship between Kengo and Wataru, how excited they both are to make art and have fun and be happy. I care so much about Wataru being in a rock band that I'm pushing the movie until after Episode 12, so I can finish off this story one day earlier. I am very into this show being permanently about Wataru playing bass!

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