You know what? I think these two episodes really worked. A little goofy, sure, and the emotional part takes a long, long time to connect, but I don't really think this story did anything wrong.

Right up front, the goofy part: this old teacher of Godai's is having a full-blown existential crisis. The big, emotional finale to his story, where he's confessing his fear that he can't be a teacher any more, and that his whole career has been a failure if Godai doesn't show up... with the abandoned school setting , the layers of snow, it would not have shocked me if Kanzaki had come there to die. It is so bleak. And, also, crazy. This dude is betting his career and fundamental belief in himself on whether or not Godai shows up. That's it. Success or failure of a life will be decided by whether or not Godai keeps a thirteen year-old appointment that Kanzaki only remembered by total coincidence. I'm not sure The Royal Tenenbaums had a more depressing view of the capriciousness of giving up on life.

To make matters even weirder, Godai a) doesn't have any idea that his idol, the man he learned how to be a man from, is basically going to consider his life wasted if Godai doesn't show up, leaving Godai blissfully unaware of the stakes of one-half of this story; and b) Godai sends Sakurako to meet Kanzaki in the beginning of the story, and he's relieved because he thinks he's done enough. He even tells Ichijou that it's fine if he doesn't show up at this point, since he sent Sakurako instead. He doesn't seem conflicted about possibly missing Kanzaki, or grief-stricken about the consequences. He's just going to fight this monster, everything else will be fine. I mean, it was, Sakurako more or less stopped that dude from killing himself, but still. Each story had stakes, which made from an above-average two-parter, but it's insane that neither side were aware of each other's struggle.

It all comes together in the end, though, as a story about why Godai's the way he is, and about the inspiration he and Kuuga serve as. The Grongi fight is a great front-to-back monster story, with Ichijou doing the exposition and Godai doing the fighting. It definitely put Godai in the driver's seat more, which is where I'd like to see this series as we move into the teens. It wasn't an astounding bit of narrative or anything, but threading together Godai's quest for self-improvement via Rider Kick and Kanzaki's epiphany that he hadn't wasted his life since Godai is who he is, that made this whole story feel worthwhile.

This was a gratifyingly strong story, after a couple that just couldn't put it all together. I'm feeling a bit more optimistic about Kuuga now!