Much like Vice, I just want to bask in Mom Igarashi’s love.

The best thing this show has going for it is an idealized yet heartfelt version of familial love and support. It’s a scarcity in Kamen Rider, that type of tight family unit. We’ve had a boatload of Wacky Uncles and Surrogate Guardians and Emotionally-Unavailable Mentors, but very few loving parents, let alone loving parents and devoted siblings. There’s a warmth that can be generated by these five characters existing in one space that is hard to match.

So, naturally, it was a gigantic bummer to have Mom Igarashi spend multiple episodes comically infantilizing her daughter, and hilariously diminishing her independence and resolve. Like, the show got it immediately (Ikki frequently calls it out), but it’s not any more fun to watch when you can see that the show is going somewhere with it. I liked it at first, because there was a rationale behind stopping non-powered Sakura from joining the fight; now, Sakura’s the equal to (at least) Daiji, and there’s no reason to assume that she can’t handle her side of the fight against the Deadmans. It’s a dumb plot.

Luckily, it ends well, in probably the only way it could. Mom Igarashi has probably had to stare down her unified children on many occasions, as they assumed that by working in concert, they could get their way. That… probably never worked. She’s okay telling her kids no, if it’s for the right reasons. Ikki and Daiji can pull all the She Can Handle Herself and We’ll Watch Out For Her pleading they want, but Mom’s made up her mind: Sakura’s too young to fight Deadmans.

(It’s an argument I’m probably making on Mom’s behalf, because the show never really bothers to articulate one? She’s just putting her foot down in a way she never did with Ikki, and we don’t even get a You Can Fight Deadmans When You Turn 18 to make it seem like it’s not a bizarre gender-based double-standard. But it feels like where the show is trying to position Mom in this conflict with Sakura.)

The solution, weirdly, is to put Mom directly in the crowd for a hectic battle against Commander Chameleon and a few dozen Giff Jrs. She’d never really seen her kids at their best as Kamen Riders, as it turns out. She got knocked out before Ikki became Revi. When Ikki and Daiji were first Kamen Riders, they battled on vacation. She’s been worried about the dangers her kids have faced, but she’s never really seen her children working as heroes. Seeing them in action, it’s hard not to root for their success, rather than fret over the danger they’re in. Her natural instinct is to cheer on her children’s greatness; she just needed to be in a position to see them be great.

It’s an interesting exploration of family as something that defaults to support, rather than needing a unified goal, which is a fun way to contrast it with the rapidly deteriorating Giffamilia. Aguilera thought she was in a family, but then she found out she was just in a gang. Where the Igarashis win the approval of their mother by showing their independence and self-sufficiency, Olteca turns on Aguilera the second she lacks a purpose in his scheming. The one thing Aguilera always counted on was a sense of belonging, and now she’s pissed off in a warehouse, with only Julio for backup. But Julio's there for her, which is sweet. He cared about her as more than a pawn or a boss; he cared about her as family.

It’s always enjoyable to see this show dig into family dynamics so fully. They’re always there to some degree – it’s the DNA of this series – but I like it when it’s both the main plot and the subplot for an episode. I like when we get a firm declaration of parental support, as well as a messy interrogation of how bonds can be misconstrued or taken for granted. It’s a fun show when it remembers how integral Family is to its identity.

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