Just to keep me on my toes, this episode’s Ex-Aid-flavored Stamp Story ends up being a thin, boring drag with an abrupt and unconvincing conclusion, while the Fenix/Hiromi/Daiji/Kagerou stuff ends up being the best non-Buu parts of the episode.

(I just… I really like the investigation scenes at Happy Spa? They’re so characterful and specific. I’d prefer if it was with Mom and Dad, but I’ll accept Buu as the token Weird Adult.)

The Stamp Story… I mean, as an Ex-Aid fan, I appreciate the little touches: a career in medicine, a videogame being played over the episode's title, a gang of three people (sorry Kiriya). I don’t know if other episodes tossed in as many signifiers for their homage – I think the curry one was after the Kuuga stamp’s debut episode, even though the Kuuga stamp was used in the finale – but I liked seeing it here. It’s a nicely subtle way to homage these different series. But the story is dumb. It takes forever to get going, the kid’s backstory never comes across (He was maybe accused unfairly! But the principal says he’s definitely guilty! But then he for sure was robbing places! But for no established reason!), the dad makes a deal with a demon to get his kid back on track but only ever seems to harass cops and Fenix… it’s just a mess. This is probably the dumbest Stamp Story this show’s done yet. There’s no one to care about here! The kid and the dad have no dimensionality to them, no discernable motivation. The conclusion to this alleged story of helicopter parenting is the kid trying to atone for his criminality while the dad’s like Whoops My Bad, and I don’t believe either of them for a second. If you thought Ayaka’s mom deciding via flashback to repent her inattention was sudden and underexplained, this episode’s finale would like you to hold its beer. Neither the father nor the son exist as anything other than a bland stock character type to move through a dull superhero investigation. It’s barely worth writing a paragraph about, so let’s move on.

Hiromi! Kamen Rider Demons! A Spider-Man!

The Daiji/Kagerou plot is brought up again, and given a little more detail for those who were uncertain of the initial reveal’s dynamic (Kagerou is Daiji’s inner demon, an expression of Daiji’s resentment towards Ikki and desire to be a powerful hero), but it’s mostly just more of the same in his appearances as Evil. It’s the Hiromi of it all that salvages this episode from being a complete misfire, which is kind of a surprise to me? He’s not a dude who made an impression at all prior to this, even in the story where he was being teased as Fenix’s traitor. (Again: who in the world would care if Fenix had a traitor? They’re all assholes!) But this time out, he’s this intriguingly empathetic-yet-focused captain, committed to pulling one of his soldiers back from the brink of demonic-possession, even if he has to personally Rider Kick the demon out of him in a skate park. Hiromi’s reaction to Daiji’s possession and rampage has so many cool notes to it: embarrassment and shame at his Deadman outburst putting Daiji on the path to summoning Kagerou; fiery resolve at his responsibility to keep his men safe, no matter the risk; grim acceptance at what unlocking his own potential might result in. It’s a million miles away from George and General Fenix’s disinterest at Daiji’s plight, or how Kagerou’s existence might affect literally everyone they depend on. Hiromi’s point of view is not only dramatically compelling, it makes sense. (It's a the more interesting echo to the Stamp Story's version of protecting your children, that's for sure.) In a show that has a really weird time attaching recognizable/relatable motivations to more than one character per episode, Hiromi is a sign that we can maybe get two from now on.

Hope! It’s a nice thing to be to take away from this episode!