Holy crap! This guy’s got an actual entire family! That’s alive! And aware of each other’s existence! And not (currently) attempting to murder one another! And they all survived the first episode! Kamen Rider is breaking new ground for its 50th anniversary season!

Best part of the premise, by far. I like that Ikki’s part of a healthy and supportive (and funny!) family unit. There’s a real weight to his abdication of heroism at the end, since we can see how much love he’s trying to protect at home. There’re dozens of shows where a Kamen Rider is balancing his Call To Heroism alongside a job, or sibling, or the intense demands of being a full-time prickly asshole that hates hot foods. But to see a Rider who both picks up arms in defense of his family, and then puts them back down in service to that family… fresh take! I like it!

Of course, there’s also the thread of characters being afraid of what committing themselves to their ideals might mean for their family – Ikki’s mysteriously abandoned soccer dreams, Daiji’s fear at what using the Vistamp Driver might turn him into – which, alongside the overall motif of We Have To Harness The Parts Of Us We Don’t Like In Order To Be Complete People, is creating some nicely modern takes on the classic Using Evil To Fight For Good theme of the original Kamen Rider series. It’s… I like how much it’s wedding the classic tropes to a more intriguing exploration of how the real battle we all face is how to be the best versions of ourselves; modifying our humanity into something stronger, more honest, more empathetic.

I mean, we’ve still got monsters to detonate and villains to overcome, and I like this show’s antagonists so far. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that the first episode features Special Guest Star – and acclaimed Murder Grandpa of professional wrestling – MINORU SUZUKI as a cast-to-type violent lunatic that generates a rubber-suited monster to menace our heroes. The monster suits… fine? I didn’t think about them much. The animal motifs are legible, and the action is solid. I think I liked the mooks better, honestly. There’s a cleanliness to the whole white and black skeleton whatever look that I’ll always dig. I’d much rather see Revi and Vice beat the holy hell out of fifteen mooks than see them rough up one clumsy barely-articulated monster.

love the Revi and Vice suits, though. That choice of light pink and sky blue for Revi? Light pink and black for Vice? So good! Revi’s helmet – and its vicious smile of dinosaur teeth – gets this nice combination of slightly terrifying heroism that I think works for how this show treats its powers in Episode 1: Very cool, but slightly unnerving and definitely not fully understood. Revi doesn’t look comforting, so much as a force of nature. Vice, on the other hand, gets this goofy hat that makes him look like a Kamen Rider mascot, distracting from his underlying menace (he definitely was going to eat Ikki’s mom!) in exactly the way Vice’s motor-mouthed gags and fourth wall-breaking antics do. The suits feel like physical approximations of their goals and relationship, which is exactly what I want to see in suit design.

Which is all pretty consistent with how I felt during this episode: kind of exactly how I wanted to get drawn into this world. The overarching plot stuff is present without being distracting; the new villain trio is colorful and at least one of them has my attention; the action has character to it, with an emphasis on tag-team wrestling moves between Revi and Vice; the supporting cast all feel like they’ve got lives outside our main character, and I’m excited to learn more; the mysteries are tantalizing without being frustrating; and the giant villain sarcophagus is only slightly massively yonic. It’s a strong start to the series, and if it misses the tension and cohesion of the Geats premiere, it has a much greater warmth than any premiere since Hibiki.

Gosh, I’m so glad to be watching a fun Kamen Rider show with you guys.