There's a bunch of little storyline things that happen in this episode (Yui and Shiro severing their familial bond, Kitaoka's worsening condition, Eri's fluctuating health, Shiro being a confirmed ghost, and a Brand New Rider at the end), but let's be real. This episode is 100% about how Kamen Riders aren't cool and you shouldn't enjoy their fighting because it's serious and dangerous and not cool.

Which, of course, is why this episode has an amazing sequence where Ren, in human form, cold cocks a monster so hard it falls down a flight of stairs:







Amazing. Amazing. I feel like, the producers, they wondered if Ren just being a Kamen Rider would be cool enough for this kid to be obsessed (hell yes!), and since they weren't certain they devised the goddamn coolest way for Ren to enter a scene. It's enormously bad-ass. No wonder this kid wants to be a Rider.

Takuya's story is a sweet little done-in-one, a way for the show to have its cake and eat it too. The Riders get to kick ass and be heroic, while also serving as a stern warning to Not Try This At Home. It's... variably successful. The ways that Shinji, Goro, and Ren all interact with Takuya are great. They've got nice chemistry, with Ren as a bemused older brother, Shinji as an overmatched babysitter, and Goro as the beating heart of the group. The comedy lands great, the kid's motivation is dead-on (didn't we all want to be superheroes as kids so we could be awesome?), and there's a nice progression to the story. It's protection, then caring, then the lesson. That lesson, that being a Kamen Rider is serious and not something you should want to be... man, I don't know. I get what they're doing. I get that they're trying to sell hideous stakes to a group of kids who are probably shouting FIGHT OR DIE at their TVs every week. You need to occasionally remind them that this is a series built around terrible choices and moral ambiguity, that no one in their right mind should want to be a Kamen Rider. But, of course kids should want to be Kamen Riders. They're heroes with special powers and cool costumes, and so much of what Shinji's about as a character is an object lesson for impressionable children: help each other, protect people, try not to murder your opponents. I feel like Takuya running away from the battle at the end... it's a bit much. I think there's a way to reinforce stakes without casting the show as a merciless abattoir. Gotta be a lower gear than that.

Oh, and one other thing about Takuya. I really liked how he's introduced trying to henshin in the mirror. I think that's (and I can't remember if we've talked about it) a positive bit of world-building Ryuki did, to make the at-home role-play part so easy for kids. I assume there were a ton of kids shouting HENSHIN into mirrors in Japanese homes, much to the chagrin of parents. That's cute, that kids could pretend to be Kamen Riders so easily.

I mean, not cute. Terrible, regrettable, horrifying. Kamen Riders aren't cool!

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