My general rule for buying merch is to hold off until after I’ve fully watched a show. A couple exceptions – I’ll get a Driver when I’ve started watching a show, I’ll preorder the Figuart of a main Rider for a show I haven’t watched yet – but I’ve held to that rule pretty firmly. Mostly because it all means more after I’ve watched a show, and there’s nothing more dispiriting than buying stuff you don’t care about yet. For example, I could’ve ordered SHF Blades at any time. He was cheap and plentiful. But I didn’t know anything about Saber when he was released. I didn’t like the look of the suit, and I assumed he’d be another surly rival for our main Rider. Now that the show’s over, I was rushing to get him. I needed to own Rintaro, in all his stammering and non-suspicious glory. The figure wasn’t just a cool toy, it was a manifestation of my appreciation for a performance; a record of art that resonated with me. I can’t care that much about a piece of merch for a character I haven’t even met yet.

Except for Lovekov.

That’s a giant Lovekov I preordered months before I started watching Revice. (Rex Vistamp for scale.) It showed up a few months back. The design of Lovekov transcended my awareness of the character, and it obliterated my flimsy rules. I couldn’t wait until after I loved Lovekov, because I already knew it was inevitable. Watching Revice, getting to know the Igarashis… all of that was just prelude to the introduction of Lovekov. The actual show starts now.

And what a grand debut for the best Kamen Rider character of the Reiwa era!

Vice was the embodiment of the life Ikki wouldn’t let himself live in the name of being there for his family: adventurous, self-involved, thrill-seeking. Evil was the embodiment of everything Daiji hated about himself: vindictive, jealous, manipulative. Naturally, Lovekov is the embodiment of the parts of Sakura that she thought were weak about herself: unbridled joy, affection, vulnerability. The show’s thesis statement is the hollowness and failure of an unexamined life, so it’s time to see what Sakura’s been keeping from us.

It’s a nice lesson in the value of vulnerability. There’s strength in letting people in; strength in accepting that people care for you, want you to be safe and happy. It’s no surprise that the site of Sakura’s failure to Henshin is an empty room, all by herself. She’s convinced herself that a facade of self-sufficient power is enough to overcome any obstacle, but it’s not. It’s her at half-strength, cut off from the totality of her resolve, as well as the support of her family. She’s stronger for saying that sometimes she isn’t strong.

It all leads to a thrilling action sequence, likely on par with the climax of this weekend’s Beyond Generations. Sakura’s fighting abilities, coupled with the Libera Driver, trounce the rapidly multiplying Deadmans. (Very nice of this story’s bad guy to create so many scrubs for Jeanne to one-shot!) Aguilera’s there to show her support and cheer on her girl, which is adorable. Hiromi's there to randomly mention his backstory and motivation, like he wanted to get it on the record before Sakura overshadowed him for good. Ikki and Daiji are there to show the difference between teammates and siblings in a perfect closing scene. It all wraps up beautifully.

It’s my favorite episode of Revice, and not only because Lovekov finally validated this show’s existence. It leverages every Igarashi kid in interesting and dramatically compelling ways, from Ikki’s pep talk at the playground, to Daiji’s inability to not ruin an emotional moment despite trying to be cool and worthy of respect, to Sakura’s growth into a woman that is okay acting like a girl occasionally. It’s sweet in its portrayal of family, smart in its exploration of vulnerability as a part of a healthy psyche, and glorious in its incorporation of toku action in the midst of all of the above.

Finally, a show worthy of Lovekov.