Huh. Didn’t really connect with this one! Not… not entirely sure why?

I mostly don’t get what Ikki and Daiji were supposed to have learned from this? Ikki’s rally in the second half is built around having faith in Daiji. Vice says that Ikki was just paying lip-service to his belief in Daiji, and it’s not until Vice’s pep talk that Ikki truly believes in Daiji’s strength. Except I’m not sure how Ikki’s behaving any differently? He spent all of last episode shouting DAIJI to a point that Vice ended up parodying, and he starts this episode begging for Daiji to put an end to Kagerou’s rampage. The only thing Ikki does differently at the end is tell Kagerou that Daiji’s strong, and I guess that’s it? That’s the lesson for Ikki? To be more verbally supportive of his brother? And Daiji doesn’t seem to learn anything; he just accepts his brother’s fawning praise and becomes a Kamen Rider because of it. The lesson, I guess, is to compliment dangerously jealous people, and put yourself beneath them until they stop trying to murder you?

It’s a conclusion that does just about nothing to address the overall dilemma of the Kagerou storyline: that Daiji’s unresolved envy coalesced into a monster that lived out Daiji’s secret desire of humiliating and murdering his brother. None of that is resolved in this exciting victory for Daiji, because all that happened is that Ikki said Daiji You’re So Much Cooler And More Awesome Than Me. This… this was not solely an Ikki problem! This was at least equally an Ikki and Daiji problem, but Daiji just waits in Kagerou’s head until Evil’s weakened by unearned compliments and Daiji heroically busts out. It’s like the show is burying the dilemma in the same way Daiji buried his resentment, and that’s sort of a terrible conclusion to frame as a win?

If I squint, I can sort of see what the show’s after. Ikki’s failure was in assuming Daiji was too weak to win on his own. Daiji’s failure was in assuming he needed Ikki to save him. It’s only when Ikki tells Kagerou that Daiji can win whenever he wants, that Daiji’s able to see the strength he’s always had. Sure, y’know: okay. But that doesn’t even touch the weird rivalry between Daiji and Ikki, it just says Oh Daiji Doesn’t Need To Be Jealous Because He And Ikki Have The Same Power Now. That’s awful! That’s a win that requires no actual introspection or contrition from Daiji! The show is doing nothing to examine the root cause of this problem! It’s like if a kid’s jealous of another kid’s toy and throws a tantrum, so you buy him the same toy. That is not addressing how unhealthy the kid’s jealousy is, and it’s doing nothing to stop it from happening all over again when there’s some other toy the kid wants. Horrible! Horrible moral!

And yet, there’s a competency to this episode that won’t let me write it off. I liked the Live suit’s debut, and the corresponding explosive fight scene. I liked the adorable family dinner at the end. I liked Aguilera going off to the underpass to flirt with Sakura. I liked all of the stuff with Vice as an attentive and helpful friend to Ikki. I liked Hiromi (not so) secretly being super emotionally invested in his soldiers. I liked the pace and structure of the episode, even if I didn’t care for how it chose to conclude this storyline. It’s… y’know, it’s not the best feeling, this disconnection from a big, emotional finale, but at least the way they told this not-great moral was pretty good?

Weird! Weird way to feel after a big episode!